A SALON boss has moved to assure customers about the safety of fish foot spas.
People with weak immune systems or underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of infection from controversial fish pedicures, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
Questions have been raised in recent months over the beauty craze, which sees people place their feet in tanks of water containing dozens of tiny Garra Rufa fish, which nibble on dead skin.
While the pampering carries a “very low” risk for healthy clients, those with conditions including diabetes and psoriasis have now been advised against the treatment.
The pedicures, which are popular in Asia, have been banned in some US states, including Florida, Texas, New Hampshire and Washington, amid fears that infections could spread through open wounds.
But Kelly Alison, who opened the borough’s first fish foot spa at Sun Studio in Stanhope Road, South Shields, said reputable businesses will not treat people with broken skin.
She said: “It is done by bad salons which don’t check and wash feet, which penalises people like me who keep on top of it.
“As long as you haven’t got an infection, open skin wounds or abrasions, you can go in. If your skin’s not broken, there is no possibility of infection.”
The HPA has issued new guidance after a panel found fish tank water contained a number of micro-organisms, and that infections could be transmitted either from fish to person (during the nibbling process), water to person (from the bacteria which can multiply in water), or person to person (via water, surrounding surfaces and the fish).
While it advised certain individuals to avoid treatment, it said any risk was “very low” for healthy clients when spas adhered to strict codes of cleanliness.
Dr Hilary Kirkbride, consultant epidemiologist at the HPA, said: “Provided that good standards of hygiene are followed by salons, members of the public are unlikely to get an infection from a fish spa pedicure. However, the risk will be higher for certain people.
“This is why we feel it’s important for salons to ensure the client has no underlying health conditions that could put them at risk, and that a thorough foot examination is performed first.”
Anyone considering a fish pedicure can help reduce health risks by ensuring cuts or infections on the feet or legs are given time to heal before treatment.
Clients are also urged to wait at least 24 hours after having a leg wax or shaving.
The HPA guidance has been endorsed by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland.