Nail Biting: Not just a habit but a health problem –

Nail Biting: Not just a habit but a health problem

Nail-Biting medically referred to as onychophagia is a common habit of relieving stress. People tend to bite their nails when stress or exited even when they’re bored, while this nervous habit may be a good stress reliever it can also affect one’s health.

Ntokozo Mathebula (17) from Meadowlands Zone 4 is one of the many people that suffer from this nervous habit. Ntokozo said that she doesn’t remember when she started biting her nails but remembers from a younger age that she grew up biting her nails.

“I don’t know why I bite my nails; it’s a habit that I cannot let go off. I am used to eating them,” she said.

Mathebula’s family advised her to stop biting her nails to the point that they applied chilli powder on her nails in order for her to stop.

“I sometimes eat them to the point of bleeding and the pain is unbearable.”

According to Mathebula after noticing that her nails were changing in colour to black as if their rotten, they took her to the doctor who prescribed ointments for her to use but they did not help.

“Even after seeing my nails change in colour I still continued biting them,” she said.

Mathebula said that she now wants to stop biting her nails because her peers are now wearing artificial nails and she can’t.

“At times I am ashamed to reveal my nails to people because of constant criticism and questions. “People should not bite their nails because the habit is very hard to let go,” she said.

Even though nail biting does not have long-term damages it does affect one’s health in a certain way.

According to, there is a family of bacteria called enterobacteriaceae—which includes salmonella and E. coli which are found beneath the tips of one’s nails and when you bite your nails those bacteria’s end up in your mouth c which may lead to diarrhoea and abnormal pain.

Furthermore, nail nibblers can also suffer from a type of infection called paronychia where swelling, redness, and a build-up of pus forms around and under the nail and that can only be removed surgically or with antibiotics.

The wart virus HPV is also a common infection among nail-biters, after infecting the fingers, these warts can then spread to your mouth and lips.

There are several tips which can help one to stop biting their nails and according to the American Academy of Dermatology those tips include; keeping your nails trimmed short, applying bitter nail polish which is available over the counter, getting regular manicures, replace the bad habit with a good habit such as getting a stress ball, identify the triggers that make you bite your nails and if one has tried all the tips and still cannot quit, it can be a sign of psychological and emotional problem and in that case one must consult a doctor.


From Soweto Urban News