Warning: Sharing these everyday items could endanger your health

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published November 11, 2019

Key Takeaways

Learning to share is perhaps one of the cornerstones of childhood. But, as adults, we learn—or even intuit—that there are some things that just should not be shared. As a physician, you already know this, but the list of things you shouldn’t share may include some items you may not have considered before.

Here are a few:

Soap. Bars of soap must be clean, right? Maybe not. Think of the bars of soap in your bathroom. They are probably shared by everyone in your household, and usually don’t dry completely between uses, which may lead to an accumulation of bacteria, fungi, and yeast that could—potentially—be transferred from person to person.

Although researchers of a study done in 1988 found that germ-laden soap isn’t likely to transfer bacteria, a previous study found that bars of soap were sources of continuous reinfection in dental clinics. To prevent the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in athletic settings, the CDC recommends not sharing bar soap. The agency also warns that in healthcare settings, handwashing with plain soap could actually increase bacterial counts on the skin and, in the case of using contaminated soap, lead to gram-negative bacilli colonization.

Flip-flops. These cheap summer staples may seem to be relatively innocuous because they are open, rather than closed like regular shoes. But be warned—they can spread athlete’s foot like any other shoe. Wet shoes are particularly susceptible to harboring this fungal infection, and flip-flops are often just that.

Hats and helmets. According to the CDC, sharing any sort of head gear can contribute to the spread of lice. Make sure everyone in the family has their own hats now that cold weather is here, as well as their very own helmets.

Earbuds. Did you know that the more you use earbuds and earphones, the more you increase the amount of bacteria in your ears? Sharing these with someone else can obviously transfer these bacteria, and can lead to otitis media and otitis externa. If you must share, try to sanitize them with an antibacterial wipe thoroughly, especially the parts that go inside the ear. And perhaps it would be wise to warn your children and teens of this as well.

Antiperspirant. Although deodorants do have some antibacterial properties to stop the breakdown of sweat by bacteria present on your skin, antiperspirants do not. Sharing roll-on antiperspirants—and even deodorants—can results in the transfer of germs, bacteria, fungi, and yeast from one person to another. Not to mention skin cells and hair. Gross! Try to stop sharing, or start using a spray.

Razors. A great rule of thumb to follow—even with those you are most intimate with—is to not share any personal item that has the potential to be exposed to blood. With their potential to cause nicks and cuts, razors absolutely fall into this category. Further, shaving—especially with a dull blade—can cause tiny nicks in the skin that may not be readily apparent, giving any viruses or bacteria on the razor an open doorway into your body. Just think of all the dead skin and bacteria that may be living on those thin razor blades and keep your razor to yourself. 

Mani/pedi accessories. Things like nail clippers, cuticle sticks and trimmers, nail buffers, and files should not be shared. With all the pushing and clipping of cuticles, skin, and nails these tools are used for, it’s no surprise that sharing them can actually spread a lot of diseases, including hepatitis C, staph infections, and warts. Because of this, salons now have strict protocol on sanitizing these tools between uses and between clients. Unless you are willing to do the same, forego sharing your manicure tools.

So, remember: Sometimes sharing is not always caring, especially with personal items you use regularly. Keep these things to yourself. Do not share them with your friends or family. For your sake and theirs.

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