Everyone can agree, germs are gross. But the truth is, we all carry them around every day. Germs like viruses and bacteria live on our skin, in our mouths, blood and noses. These germs can survive on us without causing a problem, but they could easily wreak havoc on our loved one.
Nobody wants to think that their personal items are dirty or infected, but they are constantly riddled with bacteria, viruses, mold, and yeasts.
Sharing these items, while very convenient, can dramatically increase the chances of infection and transmission of diseases including staph (staphylococcus) infections, the antibiotic-resistant MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus), the cervical cancer-causing HPV (human papilloma virus), and those nasty stomach bugs like norovirus.
Here’s a list of 15 things that you should think twice about sharing.
#15. Makeup brushes
As with everything on this list, makeup brushes carry bacteria. Beauty experts suggest washing your own brushes about once a week if you are prone to breakouts, and to generally avoid sharing. Makeup is meant to cover imperfections and make you feel confident, not add a bunch of someone else’s germs all over your face. Those with acne can increase their breakouts by using someone else’s brush, or even worse, get an infection. If new bacteria is introduced to a break in the skin, such as an open pimple, it can turn infectious.
There’s a reason eye drop bottles advise you not to let the tip touch your eye. The liquid in eyedrops is sterile, but they bottles are not. Eye drops are to be used very carefully, because eye infections can get serious very fast. Annoying infections such as conjunctivitis (or pink eye) are spread extremely easily and, if you aren’t careful, you could contaminate yourself with the blink of an eye, literally. Sharing eyedrops of any kind is always a bad idea.
#13. Water bottle
We’ve all done this. You’re at a sports game, on the beach or at a concert and you share your friend’s bottle. But sharing water bottles can turn deadly. A teen in British Columbia died of bacterial meningitis in 2008. While it is not officially confirmed that sharing of water bottles was the direct mode of transmission, meningitis can easily be contracted through saliva. The teen’s family is determined to raise awareness on the dangers of sharing water bottles, something that so many of us do without thinking twice. It is especially important to educate young children to stick to their own bottles, and avoid spreading common childhood infections like strep throat.
The American Dental Association strongly advises against the sharing of toothbrushes. Despite the fact that toothpaste and mouthwashes are meant to clean teeth, not dirty them, toothbrushes themselves can carry millions of bacteria. It’s even recommended that you change your own toothbrush after you have been sick. Everyone’s mouth may carry different bacteria and viruses. Say your friend borrows your toothbrush and she has a small cold sore forming. She’s now given you the herpes virus and you’ve given her some staph bacteria that causes her to get cellulitis. Both of you are now infected and miserable, and it all could have been avoided.
Sharing toothbrushes can also spread life-altering diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. Because gums can easily bleed during vigorous tooth brushing, those blood particles can be transferred to the person’s toothbrush.
Even if your loved one isn’t actively sick or breaking out in cold sores, it still is not safe to share toothbrushes.
When you’re in a pinch, it can seem like an easy solution to borrow your significant other’s razor. But here’s why you shouldn’t. Razors are meant to shave body hair down, but in doing so they also trap skin cells and hair follicles in the blades. When you use someone else’s razor, you are now transferring whatever bacteria they may have had on their skin to yours. Common problems could include folliculitis, rash, or cellulitis infections.
Studies have shown that makeup is not only contaminated with bacteria, but also with yeast and fungus. Gross, right? Still want to borrow your friend’s bright red lipstick? Think again. Not only could you transfer fungus to your face, but you could end up contracting the awful herpes virus that causes cold sores, even if the person doesn’t currently have one. There’s no magic lipstick that could cover those babies up or make them any less painful. And once you’ve got the herpes virus, you’ve got it for life.
A Cleveland Clinic study proved that loofahs are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and molds. They’re full of tiny holes and crevices that can hide bacterial colonies. Their almost constant moisture is perfect for housing molds. Loofahs are great because they exfoliate skin, leaving it soft and smooth. But do you really want someone else’s dead skin all over you? Didn’t think so. For your own hygiene, it is also recommended you get a new loofah every 3-4 weeks.
#8. Underwear and bathing suits
Most people would agree that you shouldn’t share underwear. But yet some think sharing bathing suits is more hygienic. The truth is, bathing suits, especially bottoms, should be treated like any other undergarment. In addition to carrying the same genital bacteria and yeasts, they can get wet. Moisture breeds not only bacteria but yeast as well. You can also potentially contract certain STIs if there are any bodily fluids on the bottoms. Not exactly something you want to pick up from your girlfriends while you’re on vacation.
Think about it. After a nice hot shower, you wrap yourself in a fluffy clean towel, rub off all the moisture, dry all those hidden folds and embarrassing places. By doing so, you’re probably shearing off some skin cells, and yup, you guessed it: bacteria. Throw in the moisture on the towel and you’ve got yourself a recipe for mold and yeast. One study found alarming numbers of bacteria that cause things like food poisoning and gastrointestinal problems on both kitchen and bath towels. Sharing towels can be especially yucky because they literally can touch every body part, like after a shower or bath, and could be exposed to various bodily fluids. Exposure to infected fluids or discharges can spread sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like trichomonas and chlamydia, without you ever having touched the person. Yikes.
Ladies, this one’s for you. You know you’re guilty of sharing earrings. Why spend money on expensive earrings when you can just swap with your friends? Unfortunately, you should probably stop this unsanitary (but so convenient!) practice. Pierced ears are just that: pierced. They are open holes in the skin, with a foreign object placed through them. Since everyone’s body has its own bacterial pool, you could be inserting a new germ in your friend’s ear. Bad ear infections could result in pain, scarring, and closure of piercing hole.
While you may want to share the latest beats with your friend, sharing earbud headphones isn’t recommended. Recent studies show that sharing earbuds increases the chances of contracting painful ear infections such as otitis media. Earbuds have flaps and crevices, and while they may not look physically dirty, they could be harboring dangerous bacteria. Because of their compact size, it’s easy to place these tiny headphones down in between uses, on countertops, equipment at the gym, or even in dirty gym bags. With each placement, new bacteria can be picked up and then transferred.
#4. Jar cream
This one may surprise you. Because any closed container can trap moisture, therefore potentially grow mold, jars of things like face cream contain a great deal of germs that are transferred daily from face to hands. Think of when you use your night cream. Do you always wash your hands first? What did your fingers last touch? What was on the lid of the jar? Even our faces carry germs, and those germs are unique to us. It’s safer to stick with your own face germs then risk an ugly break out, or worse, an infection.
#3. Nail Clippers
While it may seem harmless, it’s actually dangerous to share nail clippers. Nails, especially toenails, can carry a variety of germs including nail fungus which can be easily spread. More seriously, infectious diseases like hepatitis can be transferred via microscopic drops of blood if any skin is nicked during the clip. Unless you know exactly what’s hiding under your friend’s toenail, it’s best to use your own nail clippers.
#2. Prescription Medications
Another convenient option, but a risky one. It is never a smart idea to take someone else’s prescription medication. Everyone is unique in how they tolerate and metabolize medications. A lot of prescription drugs are contraindicated for various conditions, allergies, and medication interactions. It can be impossible for a non-healthcare provider to know if it is safe for your loved one to take your medication. And if you’re sharing among friends, you can never be sure the medication you are taking is the one that is labeled on the bottle. Always, always take your own prescription medication and keep them out of the hands of children.
One word: LICE. Lice is a form of parasite (gross!) that is spread by coming in contact with infested hair. Yup, that means you can get it from using their hairbrush or comb. Lice is easily treatable, however you have to deal with incessant itching and the risk of infection from all the scratching. It’s really not worth the hassle when you can just carry a pocket brush of your own.