Tales Of The Uninsured: I Bit Off A Hangnail And Now My Thumb Is Super Pissed Off At Me

According to the NIH's MedlinePlus I have paronychia, a skin infection that occurs around nails.
Publish date:
June 21, 2013
hangnails, paronychia, doing dumb stuff

Remember that scene in "Rocky IV" when Ivan Drago beats the living patriotism out of Apollo Creed, who's left bloody and broken on the floor, and then Drago deadpans, "If he dies, he dies"? Yeah, that's exactly how I feel right now because of a hangnail. If I die, I die. It'll be my own dumb fault.

Last week, whilst moving, I handled all manner of dirty and germy stuff that'd been previously stuffed in the cervices of our home. I'm not one for protective gear. Just days before I was caught sans socks by a shard of glass whose unwelcome presence I simply ignored until my boyfriend had had enough, grabbing my foot, sterilizing a straight pin and MacGyver-ing it out.

After that, I'd been told to wear shoes and gloves. I did not listen. I never do.

So when a hangnail presented itself, I ripped it off with my teeth gangster style and kept it moving -- digging through bins, cleaning the grossest trash can ever, sweeping under beds, basically angering the natives with a hole in my armor.

Two hours after I yanked off the hangnail, my thumb got really really mad:

I figured this was not good. Swelling, redness, and tenderness are clear flags. Every time I accidentally banged my thumb against anything I felt as if I was being crucified, you know, like Jesus. The pain was excruciating. So much so that I avoided using my thumb altogether, which is pretty difficult when you're a human, specifically one who types for a living.

"What are you gonna do when they have to cut that thing off? No more space bar for you," my boyfriend joked after buying me a pair of latex gloves. "Put these on."

Like most of the uninsured, I live in constant fear of disease and, incongruously, regularly ignore the signs of such in favor of ignorant bliss. Because if something is in fact wrong then I'll be forced to actually do something about it, namely go to the doctor -- doing sums in my head through the entire visit.

According to the NIH's MedlinePlus, I have paronychia, a skin infection that occurs around nails and is caused almost exclusively by hacking at hangnails all willy nilly. The prescribed treatment went from "OK, not bad" to "Fuck" way too fast for me.

"If you have bacterial paronychia, soaking your nail in hot water 2 or 3 times a day helps reduce swelling and pain. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. In severe cases, your doctor may cut and drain the sore with a sharp instrument. Part of the nail may need to be removed."

Sharp instruments are not a few of my favorite things. Did I mention how I tried to convince my boyfriend not to needle out that shard of glass? It hurt so much I told him I was better off with the glass in my foot permanently.

"I can live with it."

"You were limping earlier."

"Then just do it later. Please?"

"Nope, now."

"How 'bout you take some out now and then maybe more tomorrow?"


So as to avoid a stabby visit to the ER, I've been soaking my thumb in water and then slathering it with antiseptic cream in the hopes that it'll calm its ass down in the next few days. At least in time for this wedding I'm in on Saturday.

Moral of the story? Well, there are several actually. First off, DON'T bite off hangnails. I'm pretty sure most of you already knew this, but none of y'all bothered to tell me. If you have a hangnail, soak it in warm water, then clip it with nail scissors and rub in some emollient.

Secondly, don't be a stubborn foolio who thinks she's immune to germs. Thirdly, and in the words of my favorite Walgreens manicurist, "Go out into the world gently."