While biting his fingernails, Luke Hanoman opened a tiny wound on one of his fingers. That small cut spiraled into a case of life-threatening sepsis.
The 28-year-old father of two related how he used to bite his nails whenever he felt nervous. Back in July 2017, he bit the skin near a nail harder than usual. Although the wound stung, he quickly put it out of his mind, thinking it wouldn't amount to anything.
That turned out to be a mistake. As the week wore on, he found himself unable to concentrate. He began to get drenched by bouts of cold sweat and started trembling uncontrollably.
Most tellingly, his wounded finger throbbed and became inflamed. Still, Hanoman brushed the problem off as a viral infection, nothing that a good night's sleep couldn't handle.
He ended up sleeping all night, the whole morning after, and two hours into the afternoon. His mother found Hanoman feverish and covered in ominous red lines.
Upon ringing up the National Health Office, Hanoman's mother was told to bring her son to the nearest medical center at once. For the next four days, Hanoman was confined to the hospital.
Nearly a year after his close brush with death, Hanoman has made a full recovery. He is now sharing his experience with anyone who would lend him an ear.
"They told me I was lucky to make it so long. I was close to septic shock," he said in an interview with U.K. newspaper The Sun. (Related: Local lake virus saves man suffering from life-threatening, antibiotic resistant heart infection.)
Sepsis is a dangerous complication that results when the immune system's efforts to suppress a serious infection backfires. Normally, the immune response to an infection involves releasing chemicals into the bloodstream.
However, that immune response could trigger inflammation throughout the entire body. Healthy tissues will end up badly swollen while inflamed organs can stop functioning altogether. If left untreated, sepsis will turn into septic shock, which could result in death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that there are more than 1.5 million cases of sepsis in the U.S. every year. Around one out of every six of those Americans lose their lives.
Anyone can get sepsis, although older adults and people with weak immune systems are especially vulnerable.
“I had no idea what sepsis was and I had no idea about the symptoms to look out for," said Hanoman, who is now a motivational speaker. "There needs to be a lot more awareness."
Signs of sepsis include breathing problems, cold skin, disorientation, rapid breathing and heartbeats, and pain in the abdomen.
Nail biters who are worried about catching sepsis can take several steps to curb the bad habit. For one, cut your nails and keep them short.
Look for a different compulsive habit. Get a stress toy, like a stress ball that you can squeeze or a cheap, soft doll you can throw at the wall.
Whenever possible, pamper your fingernails with a manicure. The knowledge that you spent good money into your nails might deter the urge to bite them.
Or you can make your nails taste too awful for another bite. Buy a bitter-tasting nontoxic nail polish or find something appropriately nasty, like chili pepper.
Learn more about sepsis and other severe conditions at Health.news.