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Man Nearly Dies After Getting Sick From Biting His Nails

Jordan Canning

We all know nail biting is a bad habit, but it's not the easiest thing to quit.

Studies have found that many people bite their nails when they're stressed or anxious, and the best way for them to ease those feelings of impatience and frustration is to nibble at their fingers.

While it doesn't feel like nail biting is causing harm to your body, since you're just trimming your nails with your teeth, it can actually have a lot of short and long term consequences for your health.  

For example, obsessive nail biting can harm your teeth and unwashed fingers that make contact with your mouth may spread germs that can make you sick.

For one unlucky man, his bad habit left him fighting for his life.

Ricky Kennedy says he's lucky to be alive, but he is warning people about the dangers of nail biting after he developed sepsis from nibbling his thumb nail down too far.

The infection began in the 57-year-old grandfather's finger before it started to spread to his chest, and that's when he had to be rushed 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 told the Lennox Herald.

Doctors told the Scottish man that he had only 50 percent chance of surviving, and was forced to spend months in the hospital.

"It was a terrible time and you sink into a depression being stuck in hospital for that long."

While Kennedy lived to tell the tale, he didn't go unscathed by the terrible experience. He was left with an eroded collarbone, septic arthritis, as well as asthma, and will likely undergo another major surgery in the near future.

"I may never be as healthy or strong as I was but I'm still here with my family and that is very precious to me," he said.

Why is sepsis so dangerous?

Sepsis is a form of blood poisoning that is caused when an infection spreads through the blood.

The chemicals in the immune system, which are released to fight the infection, cause inflammation instead of helping the body heal, according to Healthline.

While sepsis, also called the "silent killer," is treatable, it's difficult to diagnose. In severe cases, it can lead to septic shock, a condition that is fatal if not treated immediately.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 1.5 million cases of sepsis occur every year, and 250,000 of them end in death.

Symptoms of sepsis

There are three stages of sepsis - sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock - each characterized by a set of symptoms.

Sepsis

  • Fever above 101ºF (38ºC) or a temperature below 96.8ºF (36ºC)
  • Abnormal resting heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • An infection

Severe Sepsis

  • Decreased urination
  • Mental confusion
  • Skin discoloration
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Low body temperature/chills
  • Feeling extreme weakness

Septic Shock

The symptoms listed above are all signs that a person may be headed towards septic shock. However, at this stage, there generally is a drop blood pressure .

How can you prevent sepsis?

In addition to not biting your nails, there are other steps you can take to protect yourself from sepsis.

  • Make sure all your vaccinations are up to date, and don't knock the seasonal vaccines, like the flu shot.
  • Maintain good hygiene, including washing your hands often, especially before and after taking care of a wound.
  • If you think you might have sepsis, seek medical help right away, your life is dependent on it.

Share this story with anyone you know that bites their nails. It could save their lives!

Blair isn't a bestselling author, but she has a knack for beautiful prose. When she isn't writing for Shared, she enjoys listening to podcasts.