Working Healthy

AIDS and Tuberculosis in the Salon: What Are the Chances?

Americans are more paranoid than any other culture about getting a life-threatening disease. Why? It may be that we have lost our perspective.

America has the highest health standards in the world. Yet Americans are more paranoid than any other culture about getting a life-threatening disease. Why? It may be that we have lost our perspective.

Losing perspective is easy in today’s world of tabloid TV and irresponsible journalism. The media has convinced us that terrible ills and killer diseases lurk around every corner. Who can sleep at night knowing there are “flesh-eating” bacteria swarming across our nation? To listen to the news, it is a marvel that anyone is still alive!

The American news media itself has lost its perspective. The public is being misled. This is especially true when it comes to the HIV and tuberculosis (TB) “epidemics.” The facts have been so blatantly exaggerated in the press that most people do not understand the true risks of catching either of these diseases. Without minimizing the seriousness of either disease, I suggest we look at the true threat of these diseases in the salon setting.

The odds of AIDS or TB being transmitted during a service in your salon are so low that they are practically zero. It has never happened to anyone’s knowledge and I don’t believe it ever will. Your clients are more likely to be killed by a bee sting than they are to contact HIV or tuberculosis from nail services.

The pessimist might say, “Well, it could happen.” Remember, just because something can happen doesn’t mean it will. For example, there is a “chance” that a huge asteroid will crash into the Earth next month. So should we all quit work, take an around-the-world vacation, and run up our credit cards? Of course not. We wouldn’t be seeing the risk in the proper perspective.

Common sense says we should control and lower risks, not live in fear. When it comes to HIV/AIDS, people seem to have lost their perspective. It is very hard to be infected with HIV. Transmission of HIV by salon implements is virtually impossible. No responsible authority would argue this fact. And it is impossible that a client can get tuberculosis from your implements.

Like AIDS, the risk of contracting TB has also been greatly exaggerated by the media. Tuberculosis transmitted by long-term inhalation of the TB bacteria. It cannot be transmitted by salon implements or from touching a contaminated surface. Even if a client has TB and coughs directly in your face, your risk of contracting TB is negligible. Contracting TB requires long-term, daily exposure. This explains why crowded living conditions spread TB. You must live with or work in close quarters with an infected person over a long period to contract the disease. Of those who do become infected, only 1 in 10 ever develops symptoms.

In the Dark Ages, tuberculosis was a serious illness, but it is no match for modern medicines. There are 10 different medications effective against TB. If one doesn’t work, another one will. Those that do become ill are almost always cured.

Does this mean you can quit worrying about disinfecting your implements between clients? No. Disinfection is the most important issue in the salon because clients are increasingly concerned with salon sanitation. Proper sanitation and disinfection should be a part of your service. Unfortunately, many technicians disinfect for the wrong reasons.

The most important reason for disinfection is to prevent the spread of flu and cold viruses, fungal spores, and bacteria that cause skin infections. Never tell your clients that disinfection procedures prevent AIDS or TB. This is false and will cause needless alarm. Instead, reassure clients that there is absolutely no danger of contracting these illnesses. Explain that you disinfect your implements and workstation for the same reason they clean their bathrooms. Can you imagine going to someone’s home and having them tell you, “Oh, it’s OK to use my bathroom. I just disinfected so you won’t get HIV.” Of course you’d become suspicious and concerned. So would your clients if you tell them this is why you disinfect.

To prevent the spread of disease-causing microorganisms in your salon, you must sanitize and disinfect your instruments between every client.

  • Remove all traces of debris and oil from implements by washing them thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Always have backup implements on hand so you don’t waste time waiting for those you just used to be disinfected.
  • Store clean implements in a clean, covered area (for example, in a drawer, container, or storage solution) between uses.

By Douglas Schoon, M.S. Schoon has more than 22 years experience as a research scientist, lecturer, author, and educator. He is the executive director of Chemical Awareness Training Service and director of research and development for Creative Nail Design Systems. He also serves as a chemical consultant to the American Beauty Association and is a member of the Nail Manufacturers Council’s safety and standards committee. Adapted with permission from Milady Publishing’s HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis; Everything You Need to Know to Protect Yourself and Your Clients.

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