2 Investigates: Pedicures could lead to dangerous infections

Updated:

ATLANTA - Millions of people get pedicures each day without giving it a second thought. But a trip to the nail salon could land you a dangerous infection if you aren’t careful.

The Georgia agency that licenses nail and foot salons says unethical businesses that don't properly sanitize instruments and foot tubs are putting themselves and their clients at risk.

“If they don't do it properly, it would be the equivalent of you going into a public hot tub that had never been disinfected." said Kay Kendrick, chairwoman of the Georgia Board of Cosmetology.

Kendrick told Channel 2's Tom Regan that nail and foot treatment salons in Georgia are rapidly expanding, but the number of people inspecting them is not. Salons are supposed to be checked on a yearly basis, but that is a challenging task.

There are only fourteen inspectors for tens of thousands of salons.

"More inspectors would help, but our budget doesn't allow for that,” said Kendrick.

Poorly disinfected equipment poses the greatest danger of bacterial infection to people with compromised immune systems, such as diabetics. 

[Pedicure dangers: Your questions answered]

"I was getting a pedicure and I got nicked. About two weeks later, I started limping," said Sammy Daniels.

Daniels believes his foot became infected from a tool that was not properly sanitized. He developed a gaping wound that, despite antibiotics, refused to heal. Doctors had no choice but to amputate a bone in his foot and small toe.

"I haven't been able to go back to work. I've been disabled since then," said Daniels.

We checked and found the salon Daniels used hadn't been inspected since 2011.

Kimberly Goodgame told Regan she developed a severe foot infection after a trip to a nail and foot salon. Despite weeks of antibiotics, the infection progressed in her right foot leading to amputation of a bone and a toe. 

"I'm in pain every day, and my foot is still deforming, still curving out. And there's nothing I can do about it," said Goodgame. 

The best way to protect yourself from infection during a pedicure or manicure is to first ask the salon about its disinfection procedures. Health experts say you also should only use salons that use pressured chambers called autoclaves to sterilize equipment and make sure the salon and its workers are all licensed.

You also should not allow pedicurists to use a callous razor to remove skin. Called credo blades, they are restricted for salon use in Georgia.

A representative of the wound care center says people prone to bacterial infection should avoid foot and nail salons, while others should take precautions when choosing a salon.

"You want to go someplace where they’re following safe and effective disinfecting practices," said Melissa Johnson, director of Piedmont Fayette Hospital Wound Care Center.

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