Friday, January 13, 2006

Beware of the pedicure

I watched a news report on CNN two nights ago about a group of women who are suing a few pedicure salons in the US. These women claim that they had scarring on their legs after their pedicure visits. This is actually a microbacterial infection called Fortuitum which causes boils on the legs. In some instances, they even cause permanent scarring.

Mycobacterium fortuitum is found commonly in contaminated whirlpool footbaths used by salons to relax customers and soften their skin before a pedicure. Fortuitum is found everywhere on earth. It only causes a problem to humans when nutrient content and temperatures get to the right level, allowing them to multiply in large amounts. The bacterium is not spread from person to person. A person can only acquire it from the environment. In this case, whirpool footbaths.

So what happens when you get infected by it? Usually after getting a pedicure, one that is infected will start noticing small sores developing on her lower legs. These small pores will then become larger and will developed into tender boils and skin ulders. A dose of antibiotics will usually make the infection go away but scarring on the legs will usually remain. These scars will require skin grafting.

How does a whirpool footbath get contaminated by Fortuitum? The answer is footbath screens. Chairs designed for pedicures have foot baths attached with individual filtering systems. These footbath screens if not cleaned, will accumulate hair, skin and toenails. This makes an ideal environment for fortuitum to breed. So when the water swirled around your feet, Fortuitum swims all over your feet too.

The International Nail Technicians Association (INTA) says that consumers should follow certain guidelines when having pedicure. You must not shave your legs for at least 24 hours before a pedicure. Do not do pedicure if you have open sores or nicks on your feet or legs. All equipment including basins and bowls must be clean and disinfected, before a pedicure. Before a whirlpool footbath, ask if the screen is removed, cleaned and disinfected every day. Disinfectant must to be circulated and flushed through the whirlpool system for at least 10 minutes. If the salon rejects your questions, then it is better that you move to another salon to be safe.

So is having a pedicure in Singapore safe? Today, I asked 10 salons offering pedicure services and this is what I found out. None of them know anything about Mycobacterium fortuitum. Only 3 out of the 10 that I spoke to told me that they heard of possible bacteria infections caused by pedicure. Only 1 salon stopped using the whirlpool footbath and now uses buckets that are cleaned with baricide instead. The other 9 salons do not clean their footbath screens daily. Only 1 out of these 9 salons cleans them once every three days. 5 of them don't even know that the screens have to cleaned in the first place! The other 3 haven't been cleaning the screens for weeks and months.

A doctor that I talked to says that fortuitum infections from contaminated footbaths may occur quite regularly here in Singapore but he says the authorities do not track the disease. "I have heard of it from other doctors too but I would say there are more people that don't seek treatment," he said. A person who is in the nail/pedicure industry told me that there is no law or code of conduct in Singapore for nail practitioners to adhere to. The person told me that some in the industry are discussing about forming an association where proper education and practice can be taught to the nail practitioners.

So the next time you step into a salon for a pedicure, remember to ask them about their footbath screens. You do not want to get Fortuitum.

30 comments:

Gina said...

I'm shocked and I'm supposed to have pedicure tomorrow evening.

Shy said...

Wow! IZ, you should be a journalist.

Thanks for saving our legs.

Gaylord said...

Not only women do pedicures. Men like me too.

So thanks IZ for saving our legs too!

Myra Leong said...

Gina: Like IZ said, just ask them before you do your pedicure.

cece said...

Eeeeeks!

Bengster said...

wah very nicely researched leh.

Gaylord: you do pedicure! So gay!

Doc Who said...

I'm in the medical profession. Most doctors do not know about it and how to treat it. It is like leprosy. And those who gets it will suffer a long ordeal.

To be safe, do not do pedicures with the swirling footbath. If you must, then please check if they cleaned the screens.

t pauline said...

Geee. Thanks. I tell my frens about this too. Just to warn them.

panda said...

all the women shd thank u!

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the time when I had some fungus infection on my legs when I was young. It was terrible. I had the ugliest looking legs in school then. But thankfully they dissapeared when I grew older and now I have a pair of pretty sexy legs. Heeeeeeee. OK lah, not too bad.

I think I do my own pedicure after reading this. I do not want to go back to that ordeal again.

Shy said...

Anonymous: You got the fortuitum when you are a young girl?

Myra Leong said...

Shy: I think she's not refering to fortuitum. You know when you are young, you go walkin around without wearing shows n slippers, then you start seeing patches on your legs? Some sort of fungi i think.

Lord Kimbo said...

IZ: Very good work.

Boywonder said...

Myra: I get that too when I was a kid. Mum scolded me for playing outside without my shoes and later on I know why. I'm sure Fortuitum is much worse than that. Thankfully I don't do pedicure. ;oP

finatiq said...

Guess the industry needs proper guidelines.

kris said...

yup, yup. it isn't regulated... and those nail practioneers aren't well educated. i'm not surprised that majority of them do not know about this infection.

U2 said...

My sis does pedicure once a week. Will tell her to becareful. Thanks dude.

Candyfeehily said...

i never believe in those service hygene.

Anonymous said...

Shy: myra leong is right. Thankfully it wasn't fortuitum. I was too young at that time to be doing pedicure. I'm more of a tomboy running around with boys like wild monkeys.

Anonymous said...

I mean... I WAS.

Karenz said...

I just find that the world is such a dangerous place to live nowadays.

Even going for a pedicure can lead you to some scary disease.

Anonymous said...

The people who work in those nail spas do not know anything about proper hygiene. Even if some do know, they are too lazy to be cleaning and disifecting the footbaths everytime after each customer leaves.

Sarong Party Bitch said...

Nothing can stop me and my pedicure! But I'll ask first before I do one from now on.

LYA said...

i will still go for pedicure. we ladies just love being pampered. hehe. but yup thanks to your post, i'll be more careful.

Anonymous said...

if you touch this infection and then your penis will it spread? i am a male who has had a pedicure in the past with my girlfriend and she does not believe this whole thing! help!

Anonymous said...

I was told that it could spread up your legs to your sexual organs. someone please confirm.

Swishlass - The Occasional Hygiene Freak said...

Hello IZ,
What you have found out is not surprising. Most mani/pedi places are very commercialised, do not place alot of emphasis on hygiene & hence lack diligence in sterilising the pool and other tools & equipments used.
What one can do to prevent such problems happening to himself or herself is to check out sterilising procedures of the spa/nail place, to insist on whatever has just been used to be sterilised, or bring your own set of "equipments & tools"

Jane said...

Kids, get a grip. The sky is not falling.

Anonymous said...

Fortuitum can infect the legs and hands. In fact, any parts of the body where the bacteria can get to and multiply. In the pedicure case, fortuitum appears only on the legs, usually the shin areas.

Sheila said...

Hey everyone. I have to disagree with you Jane ... the sky has fallen here because of this. Read my story to hear about my nightmare with the last trip to my salon.

I have to say that I will never go to a salon again! I have had fortuitum on my lower legs for 6 months now. The boils are painful, huge, purplish in color, and pretty gross! I have been to 5 different doctors from my family dr. to dermatologists to infectious disease doctors. Not one of them knew what I had. I have been tested for cancers, lupus, tissue problems, MRSA, staph, lymph node problems, liver functioning, AIDs, etc... everything came back normal or negative. The doctors simply kept putting me on antibiotics and antifungal medicines. For six months nothing has touched the problem. They have just figured out that this is what I have. I have permanent scaring on both of my legs as well as a weakened immune system because of the antibiotics and fungal meds. I also still cannot get rid of the fortuitum! It has attached itself to my hair folicles and when I had my eyebrows waxed in December, it began to come out on my face as well! In my opinion, no amount of pampering or relaxing could be worth this ever again!!!! Trust me, you should be very aware of what salons you are going into and how they are cleaned. This has been and continues to be a scary, expensive (1500 plus dollars so far in medical bills), and very frustrating ordeal!!!!

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