Nail biting may seem like an unsightly but harmless habit that can annoy others at the dinner table. Remember how our parents constantly told us to stop it when we were younger?
Now, we learn that the unsanitary habit may lead to far more serious consequences. A grandfather in Dumbarton, Scotland, learned that lesson the hard way that after contracting a potentially deadly blood disease.
— LADbible (@ladbible) October 23, 2018
Fifty-seven-year-old Ricky Kennedy told the Lennox Herald that he’d bitten his nails down to the quick “hundreds of times” in the past. That was until a blister that developed where he’d accidentally broken the skin on his thumb ended up causing a months-long hospital stay as he fought for his life.
Kennedy had broken the skin and allowed bacteria from his mouth to enter his bloodstream, which caused a potentially life-threatening sepsis infection. Kennedy’s wife ended up taking her husband to the hospital.
“I had bitten my nail like that hundreds of times before so to think it almost killed me is terrifying. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t move. I thought I was having a heart attack and I really did think I was going to die,” he said, via LabBible.
Luckily, Kennedy is on the mend. But his recovery hasn’t come without a cost; the infection had spread so far in his body that it had started to erode his collarbone by the time he went to the hospital. He’ll need reparative surgery to repair the bones, and he’s still in excruciating pain. It took months of medical treatment and an antibiotic prescription he was required to take when he returned home, as well.
“I’m lucky to be alive. I may never be as healthy or as strong as I was, but I’m still here with my family and that is very precious to me,” he explained.
Doctors won’t suggest that his situation was the most common, but it’s certainly a risk—and Kennedy isn’t the first individual to develop sepsis from opening a wound in their hand like that.
A 28-year-old dad of two was rushed to the hospital with sepsis in 2018 after his own brush with the infection following too much nail biting. The cause, doctors suggest, is the bacteria that lives on your hands and everything you touch—which can become a major problem if you break open the skin when you bite your nails. The bacteria can then quickly enter the bloodstream, leaving you fighting off an infection in your blood and at risk of developing sepsis.
Not everyone will end up with situations as serious as these two, as sepsis is more common in people with weakened immune systems and in elderly adults. But it is, perhaps, a good enough reason to do what your parents told you and not stick your filthy paws in your mouth.