A hangnail or agnail (also known as a stepmother’s blessing particularly in the Lancashire region) is a corruption of agnail which literally means painful (anguished) nail.
Hangnails can seem rather insignificant in the grand scheme of health problems but they can become infected and lead to a handful of other issues. Fortunately, there are many ways to avoid hangnail hazards.
Hangnails don’t have anything to do with your fingernails. Many people confuse hangnails with ingrown nails, a condition in which the corner of your nail grows into the soft skin of your nail bed. In fact, hangnails are the dry, sometimes brittle triangular-shaped tags of skin around your fingernails that can tear off. Because there are many different causes of hangnails, everyone gets them occasionally. But chronic, consistent hangnails can lead to bigger problems.
When the skin around your fingernails tears off, it opens the door to infection, especially when you consider all the bacteria your hands are exposed to every day, not to mention dishwater, cold weather and all the other things that dry out your hands in the first place. Fortunately, there are quick and easy ways to prevent hangnails that range from moisturising often to pampering your hands with cuticle soaks and manicures.
If you just can’t beat hangnails, there are also easy ways to treat them. Antibacterial lotions can often do the trick, and in more serious cases, a prescription antibiotic might be in order.
Of course, before you can avoid hangnails, you need to know what causes them.
Hangnails are more common during the cold winter months. During the winter, skin dries out really fast which is one of the main causes of hangnails. Anything that can dry out your skin, such as cold winter weather, harsh chemicals or frequent immersion in water can cause hangnails to develop.
If you are a nail biter it can damage your nail bed, which is the skin underneath the actual fingernail and a weak nail bed can result in more hangnails.
Hangnails that aren’t properly cared for can result in an infection called paronychia. There are three types of paronychia infection: bacterial, Candidal — which is a type of yeast — and fungal
Now that you know how hangnails happen, you’re probably wondering how you can stop them before they start.
- Moisturise your hands and your nail beds. Moisturising your nail beds helps your nails and your cuticles as well which can have a big impact on your overall nail health
- Stop biting your nails.
- Wear gloves if you are exposed to harsh chemicals or even just soapy water from washing the dishes.
Working in a laboratory can cause a number of hand problems including latex glove allergies. Make sure you choose the right gloves for your skin and for the job in hand. Remember to wash your hands properly and moisturise afterwards.
Remember P&R Labpak offers a range of soaps and moisturisers for laboratories so you don’t need to suffer from hangnails! The new VWR Safety catalogue is also available covering everything you need relating to personal protection, workplace safety, first aid and housekeeping. Ask for your copy now!
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