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Bartenders are often subject to a painful irritation around the fingers and nails more commonly referred to as “bar rot.” The sores go by the clinical term paronychia, which is defined as an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the fingernails.


Bar rot most commonly occurs from hands and fingers being constantly wet. Other contributing factors include the citric acid from lemons, oranges and limes. The moisture and the citric acid break down the cuticle of the nail, allowing bacteria into the nail bed.


The infection usually begins as a soreness and red swelling around the fingernails. The condition can quickly escalate to puss-filled inflammation with severe pain if left untreated.


Antibiotics are a common treatment for the infection in addition to topical antibiotic creams. Home remedies include dosing with tea tree oil or a mentholated vapor rub to draw out the infection.


Wearing gloves may be the best prevention, though they may get in the way of working effectively. The Mayo Clinic recommends keeping the cuticle strong and clean and cleaning underneath the fingernails regularly to remove accumulated bacteria. Keeping nails short may prevent bacterial build-up, and using waterless hand sanitizer while on the job may cut back on moisture as well as kill germs.