Denyse Ruptash does her own pedicures now, ever since her toe became infected in a spa in Sherwood Park, Alta. She said she was poked with a sharp tool.
“ just poked my toe instead of going under the toe nail,” Ruptash said.
“Within about 24 hours, my toe was really sore. It was black and blue and very inflamed.”
The pain and swelling lasted for over a year. During that time, Ruptash could wear only flip-flops or oversized boots.
Industry experts say her story – and others like it – are evidence Alberta needs stricter rules for nail salons.
Right now, hairstylists in Alberta require a government-issued licence, but there is no such regulation for nail technicians.
“Is a concern? Yes,” said EvelineCharles Academy instructor Terri Nicolaychuk-Lagasse. “Should we be looked at? Absolutely, I agree.
“I think everybody deserves to have a career and everybody deserves to make money,” said Analia Rubie, director of MC College. “However, I think it’s important to be educated.”
Alberta Health Services (AHS) has investigated more than 100 complaints in Edmonton-area nail salons since April of 2016. In July, inspectors ordered one business to close temporarily, for not disinfecting tools between clients.
Dr. Kathryn Koliaska says infections are rare, but they can happen.
“ anything from a bacterial infection to a fungal infection and also viral infections,” explained the AHS medical officer of health. “Whether that would be warts or blood-borne viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C.”
How can you protect yourself? Nicolaychuk-Lagasse and Rubie offer a few tips:
- Know when to skip the mani-pedi. If you have an open wound or even a scab in your foot or hand area, postpone the appointment. And if you have diabetes or a compromised immune system, talk to your doctor first.
- Ask your nail technician where they did their training. Reputable colleges teach proper sanitation practices.
- Look for the right equipment. Tools should be stainless steel and presented in sealed packages. They should be soaked in jars of hospital-grade disinfectant, like Oxivir or CaviCide.
- Make sure the water is fresh. Ask for the pedicure basin to be filled in front of you. Avoid salons with jetted tubs, as they’re harder to clean.
- Don’t be shy. If you see red flags like rusty equipment, dirty towels or someone reusing a tool after dropping it on the floor, speak up.
“I wouldn’t be afraid to say, ‘You’ve dropped that. I would prefer if you pulled out another tool please,'” said Nicolaychuk-Lagasse. “And if they don’t, feel free to leave… that is your right as a customer. You are paying for that service.”
“It’s your health and I think you need to be really aware of what’s right and what is wrong,” Rubie said.
Ruptash said she complained to the spa but they denied she contracted the infection there. She did not report the incident to AHS.
Call Health Link at 811 to see if your preferred salon has any issues or to report complaints. AHS also wants to hear about new salons so they can be inspected.
Watch below: On Feb. 28, 2017, dermatologist Dr. Alexandra Kuritzky spoke to Global BC about how to avoid health risks when visiting the nail salon.
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