It’s sandal season! Time to get those feet ready for the warmer weather ahead. If you plan on making a trip to a salon for a pedicure, here are some things you should know.

An infection caused by Mycobacterium smegmatis, a rapidly replicating bacterium that responds poorly to medication, is a possibility when you go to get a pedicure. It starts out as a red, swollen toe or looking almost like a bug bite and then gets swollen and turns blue or purple. You’re looking at a long course of antibiotics and possibly even surgery to correct the scarring that can occur. One of the most serious mycobacterium infections called fortitum may cause boils on the legs.

While severe infections from a manicure or pedicure are rare, you wouldn’t even want to risk getting a minor infection from having a pedicure done. Athlete’s foot, toenail fungus and even warts are other potential pedicure dangers, not to mention allergic reactions, loss of a nail, and the spread of staph infections or viruses and, in extreme cases, HIV and hepatitis. A fungus can take hold of your toenail, multiply and cause the nail to grow up to 1/2 inch thick. It’s very ugly, it can cause a lot of foot problems. If you’re a diabetic, it may lead to infections and even toe amputations.

Some nail technicians recommend finding a salon that does not use whirlpool tubs or any other foot bath that involves plumbing, because the bacteria can sit in the pipes and there’s no good way to clean them efficiently and effectively. Chairs specially designed for pedicures have foot baths attached with individual filtering systems. The filters can become clogged with hair, skin and toenails, making an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. The swirling waters then spread the bacteria.

Here are helpful tips for finding a reputable salon to perform a pedicure on you.

Make sure the establishment has a license. It should be prominently displayed in the front reception area. Your cosmetologist should also have a license posted at his or her station.

Leave if the salon appears even the slightest bit dirty. Take a peek at the towels and the instruments and look to see if workers are washing their hands between treatments. Sniff the air, and if you sense a strong odor, that’s a bad sign.

Ask questions. How does the salon disinfect its instruments? The cosmetic industry is not required to use sophisticated and expensive machines to ensure a medical level of sterilization. Are disposable items that cannot be sanitized (like emery boards, nail buffers, toe separators, orange sticks, etc.) thrown away immediately after their use?

Bring your own manicure and pedicure equipment, towels (and disposable foot tub liner, if possible) with you to ensure the supplies will not be used on anyone else. Many people have a set of their own dental tools when they go to the dentist, so having your very own pedicure kit only makes sense. You can find two pedicure kits that I recommend at my website.

Ensure that the person performing the pedicure knows your cuticles are not to be clipped or cut. They are important in that they keep bacteria from getting under the nail bed, and if there’s a chance you could be cut and bleed, it could lead to serious infections. In addition, razors, scrapers or graters for calluses must never be used.

Try to relax and enjoy. Just remember to keep on your toes and tread carefully when going for a pedicure.