Effect of sharing headphone, handtowel, toothpaste and food


Be careful what you share! Anything can carry bacteria, viruses and fungi which can spread

In general, it is better not to share anything that goes on or in your body,’ says Lisa Ackerley, a chartered environmental health practitioner at

Effect of sharing headphone, handtowel, toothpaste and food


‘After two days, if you dry your face on a hand towel, you’re probably getting more E. coli on your face than if you stuck your head in a loo,’ says Professor Gerba.

For a 2017 study, his team went door-to-door and collected 500 hand towels — tests found nearly 90 per cent carried coliform bacteria (the type that originates in faeces); around 14 per cent carried E. coli; and 4 per cent carried Salmonella (a cause of food poisoning).

The issue is people don’t wash their hands properly, so when they dry them on towels, they transfer dangerous microbes to them.

For example, S. aureus can cause infections such as impetigo and if skin has eczema or acne, it may trigger flare-ups, adds Dr Hextall. ‘In my house, anyone with any cold, infection or stomach bug has their own towel and puts it in the wash straight after.’


Sharing earphones is a bad idea, suggest the experts. They’ll often have ear wax on them, which carries dirt and germs too — some of which will be pathogenic, or disease causing, says Dr Mohammed.

People who use earphones regularly have thousands of times more bugs than those who used them infrequently, according to a study in the Online Journal of Health and Allied Sciences in 2008

The researchers said ‘bacterial transfer does increase with use and the chance of it being transferred is high [when] people share earphones’. Sharing also increases the chance of otitis externa, inflammation of the external ear, they wrote.


Sharing a toothbrush is a complete no-no, says Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation. ‘That’s because they pick up a large load of bacteria and viruses from the mouth and the bathroom; these gather in the brush and can easily be passed on as it remains warm and moist.’

In particular, bacteria linked with gingivitis (gum inflammation) and blood-borne infections can be shared. Store toothbrushes in separate pots, too — touching can spread harmful microbes from one mouth to another.

Meanwhile, if you have a sore throat or any viruses, you should even avoid sharing toothpaste, says microbiologist Dr Mohammed. ‘These contagious germs can spread from your mouth to the toothbrush then to the tip of the shared toothpaste, where they may survive for some time and can be caught by someone else.’

Most mouthwashes contain antimicrobial compounds, but while it’s fine to share a bottle, don’t swig from it: ‘Use the cap then rinse it to wash out microbes,’ says Dr Carter.


Sharing food is part of day-to-day life for many; whether it’s movie popcorn, party snacks or finishing your child’s leftovers.

‘Before sharing food, ask yourself: “Would I share this person’s saliva?” ’ says Dr Mohammed. ‘When we eat, droplets of our saliva transfer to the food, as well as our cutlery. It’ll also be on our hands, which we will then use to touch surfaces.’

‘Saliva can transmit viruses such as those that cause cold and flu; and bacteria that cause strep throat. These will be transmitted to others who come into contact with the saliva — whether they develop the infection is down to their immune response to those pathogens.’


If you’re having your nails done, beware of shared nail files, clippers and anything that’s used close to the nail, says Dr Hextall. ‘They must be sterile or single use to prevent infections spreading.’

In particular, fungal nail infections can spread this way, and they are ‘very difficult to treat’, she says. ‘Once the nail is damaged, there is a portal for entry for other infections, such as bacterial ones. Those with conditions such as diabetes are at risk of cellulitis [an infection in the deeper layers of the skin].’

‘If you know someone has a fungal nail infection, don’t share anything with them, including nail files and shoes. A fungal nail is identifiable by a yellow, slightly thicker nail that often has an odd shape.’ 


Anything that comes into direct contact with your face should be kept to yourself, says Professor Bloomfield.
In particular, she says, mascara or eyeliner should never be shared as microbes can get through the mucous membrane in the eye. ‘A brush is dry, so microbes may not survive for long, but in a mascara they would, as it is wet and warm inside,’ adds Dr Hextall.


Don’t share a razor as there’s a chance you will cut the skin, which opens you up to infection as bacteria can spread through the blood, says Professor Bloomfield

‘For example S. aureus, which normally lives on the skin without problems, can gain access through the tiniest cut and cause folliculitis or impetigo. It is a similar case with bacteria that cause warts, some yeast infections and Trichophyton, a fungi that can cause athlete’s foot, ringworm, and jock itch.’
And if you do bleed, there’s the risk of sharing blood-borne viruses too, such as hepatitis C, adds Dr Hextall.


If the cold weather has made your lips dry, don’t dip into a shared jar of Vaseline. ‘There’s a lot of bacteria around the mouth and dipping into a shared pot of cream is risky,’ says Dr Justine Hextall, a consultant dermatologist at Tarrant Street Clinic in Arundel, West Sussex.

For example, the herpes simplex virus, which causes cold sores, is highly contagious and can survive for two hours on skin.

‘Because of the risk of spreading this, and other, viruses — which can sit dormant without causing symptoms in some people — I would never share lipsticks or lip balms,’ says Dr Hextall.


Recent — as yet unpublished — research shows the couch could be another shared item that can easily spread harmful bugs.

‘We found the influenza virus will survive for two or three days on a couch, and when you sit on it, it’ll create aerosols that will contaminate your clothes and hands — and you can also inhale the virus,’ says Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona in the U.S. By using so-called tracer viruses, compounds that attach to viruses and help track their movement, he found that when people sit on a couch with flu droplets on it, the virus spread all over them.

Source : Dailmail





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