Filthy or Fashion Fingernails?

You see fingernails with black or dark blue "Gardeners French manicure." For some, this may be a fad; it matches their favorite denim or black party outfit. It's their style. This is America, everyone is entitled to their own preferences and styles.

In a toddler, however, you look closer, and it is actual dirt underneath fingernails of his/ her active, tiny hands. As this child's mother, you wonder how your baby could maintain fingernails like this, when you're bathing him/her 3 days a week and the babysitter is careful about making sure he/ she sanitizes his/ her  hands before eating.

There are 3 common medical problems that the dirt under your toddlers' fingernails may be telling you.

1.     Check his/ her daily intake of junk food. How much candy and cookies has he/she had in the past 3 days? Ask his/ her pediatrician to do a glucose test. If it is elevated, ask for his body mass index. If it is >85%, ask for a hemoglobin A1c test, which is a diagnostic test for diabetes. Please do not misunderstand; I am not saying that everyone with dirty fingernails has diabetes! However, it may prove worth it to take a closer look.

2.     Perhaps the most obvious problem may be his/her personal hygiene. Is soap being used when your child is bathed? Does he/ she wash his/ her hands with soap and water after playing, both indoors and outdoors? A creative way to remember teaching proper handwashing to your toddler is to sing the "Happy Birthday song" as you model him/ her the way to do it. Microbes such as fungi, bacteria and viruses multiply and may wreak havoc in fingers, causing blisters or skin infections, and could even cause respiratory infections if these microbes travel from fingers to mouths of children, especially if they put their fingers in their mouths. 

3.     Do you have behavioral concerns in your child such as hyperactivity, restlessness, or misconduct? If so, dirty fingernails may just be a sign that he/she may be clamoring for adult attention and guidance to use his hands and fingers for creative, fun, more productive activities. In this age of information, one can easily find ideas on how to keep toddler hands occupied using chemical-free and easy-to-clean educational supplies. 

The following are some website suggestions on how to teach your toddler how to wash his/ hands properly:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/prevention/Pages/Hand-Washing-A-Powerful-Antidote-to-Illness.aspx

https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/pdf/Hispanic_SuperHero_HandWashing_Poster_8x11.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/pdf/wash-your-hands-steps-8x11.pdf

Other references:

https://raisingchildren.net.au/guides/a-z-health-reference/nail-infections

https://kidshealth.org/PrimaryChildrens/en/parents/paronychia.html

It's nice to express one's style as long as it doesn't harm anyone, especially the person flaunting it. However, it may prove worthwhile to inspect closer; you never know what you may find under those fingernails ? !

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