When Alex Bernhardt walked into the interview, she had no idea how ill she was.
As 9 News reports, the reporter for “A Current Affair,” an Australian news program, was interviewing Professor Kerryn Phelps, a doctor-turned-politician, when the conversation took a surprising turn. During the interview, Phelps noticed that Bernhardt’s elbow was red and swollen.
Within moments, the doctor had deduced the cause of the inflammation and its source. Phelps later told Bernhardt:
“You had quite a severe, what we call a septic bursitis in your elbow. Its other name is olecranon bursitis, and we don’t see those very often, but when they are seen, they need to be treated as a matter of urgency.”
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), olecranon bursitis is an inflammation of the thin, fluid-filled sac at the tip of the elbow.
Though there are multiple causes for olecranon bursitis, including trauma and pressure, it can also be caused by an infection. In such cases, bacteria enters the body through a wound or break in the skin, gets inside the bursa sac, and causes swelling, redness, and pain.
As soon as Phelps realized that Bernhardt had an infection in her elbow, she pinpointed where it came from … by looking at the reporter’s nail polish. She told the reporter:
“I looked to your fingernails to see whether you’d had a recent manicure. And you had, just within the last 12 hours. I saw a cut on your finger, which was already infected, and that was a clue as to where the infection had come from.”
Bernhardt left the interview with a prescription and instructions to go to the hospital if the swelling didn’t go down by the end of the day. She then spent three days in a Sydney hospital, being treated with IV antibiotics. At one point, doctors told her they might have to operate on her infected elbow.
After getting a routine manicure, channel 9 reporter Alex Bernhardt ended up in hospital and is now looking for answers. #9ACA | WATCH THE FULL STORY: https://www.9now.com.au/a-current-affair/2018/extras/latest/190204/manicure-misery?ocid=Social-ACA
Posted by A Current Affair on Monday, February 4, 2019
Bernhardt is now on the mend, but her experience led her to investigate other cases of health problems linked to issues with hygiene at nail salons. One woman claimed she lost the top of one finger due to infection after visiting a salon where the equipment wasn’t properly sterilized. Another lost a nail after her finger got infected.
Bernhardt and Phelps both note that it isn’t reasonable to expect a nail salon to meet the same standards as a hospital. However, there are steps consumers can take to minimize risk when getting one’s nails done.
According to Self, dirty nail salons can be a breeding ground for several different health hazards, including bacteria, viruses like plantar warts, and fungal infections. Moreover, when nail and pedicure instruments cause skin punctures or abrasions — even small ones — they can leave customers and staff at risk for the transfer of blood-borne diseases like hepatitis or HIV.
To protect yourself against infection or illness at the nail salon, do an initial cleanliness check. The salon, its countertops, floor, and bathrooms should all be clean and sanitary. Likewise, the technicians should have clean uniforms or aprons, and their stations should be tidy. The presence of a safety notice outlining the salon’s hygiene procedures is also a good sign.
Foot baths, in particular, can be a haven for germs, so ask whether the foot baths are pipe-free (the preferred option) and whether liners are changed after every client. Watch that single-use tools (like files and buffers) are opened in front of you and thrown away afterward.
For tools that are not single-use, ask if the salon uses an autoclave to clean them. This is a more effective option than a disinfecting solution. You can even bring your own tools if that’s an option.
Most of all, you should trust your instincts and speak to the salon owner if you see something that worries you. As Phelps told 9 News, asking questions and speaking up may be the only practical way to protect yourself at the nail salon:
“In the end, you’re really reliant on those procedures being conducted on a routine and regular basis and not having anything slip through the cracks.”