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.
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
About the Authors
Toni Golen, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing; Contributor
Hope Ricciotti, MD, Editor at Large, Harvard Women's Health Watch
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.