This Is Your Body's "Hidden Reservoir" for COVID, Doctors Warn

Researchers say you're overlooking a common gathering spot for pathogens.

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With COVID-19 cases on the rise throughout the country, you're probably being extra vigilant about wearing your mask, social distancing, and washing your hands. But you may be overlooking an important source of contact transmission of the disease that causes COVID-19, according to the researchers behind a new letter to the editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. What is it and where? This "potential hidden reservoir," as they call it, is known as the subungual area—or in layman's terms, under your nails.

"Although SARS-CoV-2 is mainly spread via inhaled droplets, fingernails may act as reservoirs for viruses that are transmitted to the oral-nasal mucosa," write Albert Wu, MS, of New York Medical College and Shari Lipner, MD, PhD, a dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. The researchers analyzed clinical studies measuring microbial load underneath fingernails and found that wearing your nails certain ways can put you at risk of harboring more germs. Here's what you need to know, and for more on signs you could be sick, check out If You Notice These 3 Strange Symptoms, You May Have COVID, Study Says.

Read the original article on Best Life.

Keep your nails short.

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"Longer nails are correlated with greater microbial counts than shorter nails," the researchers write. Long fingernails are more likely to harbor pathogens like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and humanpapillomavirus than shorter nails. And because SARS-CoV-2 survives for long periods of time on surfaces, it's likely to retain viability on the nails, they report.

"We therefore recommend that nails are kept short and emphasize cleansing of nail undersides as part of proper handwashing," the authors suggest.

To stay healthy, wash beneath your fingernails when scrubbing your hands and clip nails short (2 mm beyond the fingertip). Also, scrub nail clippers and scissors with a 70 percent to 90 percent alcohol solution after use. And for more on hand hygiene, check out This Is When You're Still Forgetting to Wash Your Hands, CDC Says.

Remove chipped nail polish.

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"Nails with chipped polish may serve as reservoirs for microbes," the study authors explain, so you should remove and replace damaged nail polish immediately. "Intact polish is acceptable practice and likely does not promote pathogen spread," they add. And for more on where you're most at risk, check out The 4 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID During the Current Wave.

Don't wear artificial nails.

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"Most evidence supports the presence of greater numbers and species of microbes in artificial nails compared with bare nails," write the researchers. "Small cracks and separation of artificial nails from the natural nail plate create crevices for microbial invasion even with handwashing." And for more tips on staying safe, sign up for our daily newsletter.

And avoid gel manicures, too.

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Shutterstock/woodpencil

Gel nails carry risks, too. "Although they are unlikely to chip, physical gaps form as the natural nail grows out," the paper states. "Gel nails have a greater number of pathogenic microorganisms compared with bare nails and should be avoided." According to the researchers, healthcare workers, patient, and the general public should avoid wearing artificial or gel nails in areas where the COVID-19 virus may be prevalent. And for guidance as to where that is, check out This Is How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.

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