Nail biting is a bad habit, and everybody agrees on that. It makes the nails look bad and untidy, and it gives the impression that the person biting the nails is constantly nervous or anxious. However, this habit can also lead to fungal infections, which are not dangerous but they can be very annoying and frustrating.
This habit is also known by the medical term onychophagia. It is, in most cases, a semi-unconscious response to stress, anxiety, boredom or inactivity. It affects people of alla ages, although it is observed that it is most common in childhood, where it affects about 50 percent of all kids. By the age of 30 most people quit biting nails, although the habit persists in 10 percent of people. Some of the famous nail biters include Phil Collins, Lisa Mary Presley and Jacky Onassis.
Nail biting easily becomes an involuntary habit and many people are seldom aware that they are doing it, especially while reading or watching a movie. If it persists, this habit can lead to nail deformities and other complications.
Nail biting and nail fungus
Medical experts have observed a relation between nail biting and fungus and they warn about the risk of nail fungus in people who bite their nails. This happens because when a person bites nails, s/he removes not just parts of the nail, commonly at the tip, but also the surrounding skin and the cuticles.
Cuticles may seem like an undesired and useless thing, but they in fact protect the nail bed from harmful agents, bacteria and fungus. When cuticles are damaged, the risk of contracting bacterial or fungal infection increases.
When the fungus penetrates the nail, it starts spreading, and if it is not treated, it can lead to discoloration, nail damage and deformities, and the nail may even fall off.
How to prevent nail biting
The important thing is to become aware of the habit. It helps to ask friends to warn the person whenever he or she is biting the nails. It also helps to keep the nails clean and trimmed at all times. Shot nails are difficult to bite and if the nails are nicely trimmed by a manicurist, in a clean salon, using sterile equipment, the person will be less eager to bite them.
Nail polish works too. Chipped nail polish looks really bad and no one wants that.
Persons who bite their nails should find other things to keep from the habit. Doodling, squeezing on a stress ball or clay can help, just like chewing on other things, like gum or mints.
Some people apply bitter souring or hot substances on their nails and fingers to keep from biting them, like hot sauce, paint or even chemical liquids. This is not recommended, because those substances can damage the nail and the surrounding skin and cause even more damage.