Healthy living

Fish pedicures health risk

Fish pedicures health risk Infection risk for those with weakened immunity

People with weakened immune systems should avoid fish pedicures, experts have warned.

Fish pedicures have become increasingly popular in recent years. Clients are required to place their feet in a tank of water containing Garra rufa fish which nibble on the dead skin.

However, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) was contacted by environmental health officers concerned that the fish pedicures may increase the risk of foot infections.

Garra rufa pedicures have been banned by health authorities in several US states, including Florida, Texas, and New Hampshire.

For individuals in good health, the risk of catching an infection from having a fish pedicure is low, the HPA said.

Fish tank water has been shown to contain a number of micro-organisms and has the potential to transmit a range of infections, but the overall risk of infection is likely to be low for healthy individuals, the Agency said, providing 'appropriate standards of hygiene are adhered to.'

However, fish pedicures are not recommended for people with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions - including diabetes and psoriasis - as they are at a higher risk of infection.

Dr Hilary Kirkbride, consultant epidemiologist at the HPA, said: "Provided that good standards of hygiene are followed by salons, members of the public are unlikely to get an infection from a fish spa pedicure, however the risk will be higher for certain people.

"This is why we feel it’s important for salons to ensure the client has no underlying health conditions that could put them at risk, and that a thorough foot examination is performed, to make sure there are no cuts, grazes or existing skin conditions that could spread infection.

"Anyone considering a fish pedicure can help reduce the risk of infection – both to themselves and others – by taking simple precautions.

"Allowing any cuts or infections you may have on your feet or legs to heal before having the treatment, and waiting at least 24 hours after having a leg wax or shaving, will minimise your chances of catching anything. If you do experience any ill effects after the treatment, you should visit your GP."

This article was published on Tue 18 October 2011

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