Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ

Question:

I just got my first job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. The person I replaced got some kind of fungal infection from washing dishes. How can I avoid this myself?

Answer:

You might be referring to a finger infection called paronychia. The common staphylococcus aureus bacteria is the most likely culprit. Moist skin (especially with cracked openings around the nails) from hands in water constantly gives bacteria a nice cozy place to live and breed more bacteria. Dishwashers who don't use rubber gloves are certainly at risk. So are swimmers and bartenders, people who bite their nails, and those who get frequent manicures. The first symptom is a red, swollen area under the nail fold. The nail fold is where the skin meets the nail and folds under slightly. A pocket of pus (abscess) may form next. Pain develops that gets the person's attention. Early treatment with antibiotics and draining the area are usually all that is required to take care of the problem. But if the hands are still exposed to water, the infection can return and become more difficult to treat. Surgery may be needed at that point. The best thing to do as a new dishwasher on the job is get yourself a good pair of rubber gloves and wear them consistently. Don't share them with anyone even if it means taking them home with you at the end of the day. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned, see your physician right away. An early diagnosis and quick response with treatment can make all the difference between an acute (one time) problem and something that becomes chronic and plagues you for a long time. Lucas S. McDonald, MD, MPH, et al. Hand Infections. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. August 2011. Vol. 36A. No. 8. Pp. 1403-1412.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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