Proper nail care is the best way to prevent paronychia.

You depend on your hands for just about everything, meaning you should be sure to keep them in tip-top shape. One way to do that is to prevent paronychia, and if you can’t prevent it, treat it quickly. Don’t worry, paronychia sounds a lot scarier than it actually is: a skin infection around the fingernail. The cuticle or side of the nail will usually be red and swollen, and may be tender or warm to the touch. Less commonly, the shape or color of the nail may be affected as well.

What causes it?

According to Medline Plus, paronychia is an infected wound typically caused by an injury to the area. This can happen if you trim your nail just a little too short, pick a hangnail or push back your cuticle. If an infection is bacterial, there may also be pus-filled blisters in the area. Paronychia can also be a fungal infection caused by having your nails done at a salon, or having your hands in water for long durations, like washing dishes.  People with diabetes have a higher chance of getting a fungal nail infection.

What to do?

Paronychia doesn’t usually require treatment from a medical professional. Practice basic wound care by keeping it clean and leaving it alone. If you have a bacterial infection, soaking your nail in hot water a few times a day will reduce swelling and pain. Epsom salt will also help relieve your symptoms, and they should clear up within a few days. If this doesn’t help, or if you notice the infection spreading, you may have to see your doctor and they may prescribe oral antibiotics to kill the infection, or antifungal medicine to kill the fungus. It’s also possible that they may need to drain the abscess if there are blisters. If you have a history of diabetes or a compromised immune system, antibiotics will usually be beneficial to prevent the condition from worsening.

How to prevent it?

Proper nail care is usually enough to keep your nails and nail beds healthy. Trim your nails every week or so, and file them so they don’t catch. If you frequent the nail salon, bring your own tools, and don’t trim your cuticles or remove them. Their purpose is to provide a barrier for germs, so don’t purposely remove that barrier.

Advanced Tissue is the nation’s leader in delivering specialized wound care supplies to patients.