’tis the finger of (ill) fate

Start a job. Get an infection.

Paronychia. Pronounced pear-ah-NIK-ee-ya.

You know this word? No worries, I didn’t either — until this job.

Paronychia’s an infection around the edge of a fingernail or toenail. It can be bacterial or fungal, acute or chronic.

anatomy of a nail

In medical speak, an infection results when invaders enter through a break in the seal of the proximal nail fold and nail plate. Paronychia can develop into pus-filled pockets that require lancing. Left untreated, the infection can spread through the entire digit, resulting in fever and such. Antibiotics in cream or oral form can be required.

Paronychia presents with redness, swelling and painful tenderness. It presents, well, like this:

shiny swollen paronychia

You think I’m gonna post a pic of MY paronychia?!

So there it is. Two, three weeks into the new job and already a workman comp claim! I’m kidding of course.

There’s no kidding about the finger infection, however, acquired from hands plunged into restaurant-style dirty water rich with bacteria, chemicals, food and grease.

You see, three days a week, I wash dishes for a living (and wear gloves 99.999% of the time). A glamour job? Hell no. It’s hard work, low pay and a far cry from my capabilities and (former) career.

However, it’s a job and an honest dollar and a better income than before, which amounted to a big fat zero.

So paronychia. What to do about it? Treatment depends on whether it’s viral or bacterial; mine’s nearly certain to be the latter and as one lives and dies by the sword, I live and die by home remedies. (They’re not always successful but they’re a helluva lot more affordable than medical care without insurance!)

Based on my research of paronychia — the word of the day you won’t soon forget! — 15-minute soaks 4x day in warm water infused with vinegar, tree tea oil or antibacterial soap help. Also applications of oregano oil, which I happened to have, errr, on hand because it’s also a remedy for dental infections.

Will see whether these treatments eradicate the infection.

In the meantime, having saved the best for last, I reveal the finger with the paronychia:

rocker Keith


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Drude
    Nov 20, 2011 @ 00:37:20

    I’ve had that loads of times. I use soap-shavings, it works a treat. I don’t know if you get them, but the old fashioned kind of soap shavings for washing floors – you could also use just shavings of normal hand soap. Make a good thick solution of it as warm as you can possibly bear to stick your finger in… soak it 3 times a day.

    It often happens around this time of year, because the approaching colder weather dries the air out.. which then dries the skin out and it either cracks a little around the nails or that nicely illustrated proximal nail fold sort of shrinks away from the nail. Hospitals can have some NASTY multiresistent bacteria.. I don’t know if the facility where you work also have that, but if so, then be extra careful.

    It helps (prophylactically) to keep your nails short, and push the cuticle back away from the nail before it starts cracking and getting infected. I imagine with your job you need a good cream of some kind to keep your skin happy.

    If the gloves bother you, you can get thin cotton glove liners – ask your boss to get them for you. When I worked in a lab and we changed disposable gloves every 15 minutes, many of us had these cotton glove liners under the disposable ones – it is SO much nicer to work with all day.

    cotton glove liners: http://www.medicalsuppliesexpert.com/cotton-glove-liner-latex-free.html?feed=Froogle


    • allycatadventures
      Nov 20, 2011 @ 10:13:25

      @Drude – So you *do* know the word paronychia! 🙂 Thanks so much for the suggestions! Last night I tried a soak in diluted hydrogen peroxide. It’s an uphill battle as my hands are frequently immersed in soap and sanitizers when ungloved. They don’t provide real dishwashing gloves so it’s unlikely they’d spring for the cotton glove liners. They do appeal and if I can find a pair cheaply, I’ll get me some!

      Colorado’s climate is wonderfully dry but it does create a double whammy at work and wreck havoc on skin generally. I moved from a climate so wet and damp that you really could get away without moisturizer! … so I must still sometimes remind myself to apply it!

      You’re right about the importance of nail care. A lifelong habit that I’ve struggled to break is Manicures in the Rough, i.e., biting my nails. Occasionally I succeed, then I go and blow it! Between the job and climate, it’s best to adopt better nail care.

      In the meantime, I’m gonna see whether a couple days off from work helps the healing. If not, then I’ll likely proceed with a cumbersome comp claim in order to wait 4 hours to see a work doctor for antibiotics. Ugh. It happens that the digit begins looking a tad better after a long soak at home and then boom, soon as it hits those soaps and sanitizers again, it flares up and swells and turns a shade of grape! Purple grapes are for eating, not wearing as skin. 🙂


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