Is biting my nails really that bad?
Ask the doctors
Q. I've had a nail-biting habit for as long as I can remember. But now a new friend is telling me my nibbling could actually harm my health. Is that true?
A. Your friend is correct. Think about it this way: how many things do you touch every day, whether doorknobs, money, or even your phone? Our fingertips are germ collectors even when we don't bite our nails. But this habit makes you especially vulnerable to dirt and grime that can collect in nailbeds, since nibbling leaves cuticles and skin ragged and creates tiny fissures in your skin that germs can pass through. By putting your nails into your mouth, you're carrying germs for a variety of illnesses that range from the common cold to salmonella infection. You can also develop an infection in the skin around your nails or under a nailbed itself.
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About the Authors
Toni Golen, MD, Contributor; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing
Hope Ricciotti, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch
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