Cold & Flu Prevention

7 Everyday Items You Should Avoid Sharing

The HealthCentral Editorial Team Mar 28th, 2012 (updated Feb 4th, 2015)
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Seven everyday items that it's better for you to keep to yourself.

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Hands off?
Hands off?

None of like to think that items we use every day could be carrying germs or other contagions. Nor do we want to consider that we could "catch" things from items used by our friends and neighbors.

But research suggests there are some everyday items that we shouldn't share with others if we want to reduce our risk of contracting viruses and other infections. Read on to discover 7 things it's better for you to keep to yourself.

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Remote controls
Remote controls

Because they're frequently handled but seldom cleaned, remotes for televisions and other devices can be covered in germs. This includes remotes in your house as well as those found in hotel rooms, hospitals, and nursing homes.

Experts have found many different kinds of viruses and contagions on remotes, including E. coli.

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Touchscreen devices
Touchscreen devices

Touchscreen devices are all the rage, from ATMs to self-checkouts at grocery stores to gas pumps.

But these convenient devices can harbor a wide range of contagions, including E. coli, MRSA, and viruses that cause colds and flu. When experts tested a variety of surfaces for germs and viruses, they found that touchscreen devices and keypads on machines used in public places had more contagions on them than any other surface.

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Brushes
Brushes

Hairbrushes, toothbrushes, makeup brushes...sometimes you forget one of these when you're away from home. You know your friends well, so there's no reason not to use their brushes just this once, right?

Wrong. Toothbrushes can transmit HIV and hepatitis B and C, while hairbrushes have been found to carry MRSA and other germs.

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Cell phones
Cell phones

Like TV remotes, cell phones are handled often and rarely (if ever) cleaned.

Women's phones are also more germy than men's, experts say. This may be linked to the fact that women tend to have more colds than men generally, that they have contact with children more frequently, or that their phones are contaminated with germs found in makeup.

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Shopping carts
Shopping carts

You've probably seen the "cleaning stations" stocked with wipes and hand sanitizer cropping up in the past few years next to the carts at many grocery stores. This is due to recent studies that have discovered such contagions as Salmonella, MRSA, and E. coli on shopping carts. In fact, in one study scientists found E.coli on 80 percent of the shopping carts in some parts of the country!

Maybe those wipes and sanitizers aren't such a crazy idea after all?

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Cosmetics
Cosmetics

It's great to try new shades and brands of makeup, but these fashion decisions may also be putting you at risk.

Makeup samples taken from department and drug stores over a two-year study tested positive for such contagions as staph and E. coli. The concentrations of germs in makeup samples tend to be higher on weekends, experts say, when more customers are moving through stores and trying the items.

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Pens
Pens

Most people put their pens in their mouths, and this makes them perfect vehicles for spreading and catching germs.

Experts say everything from MRSA to mouth infections to influenza can be spread by sharing pens. But unlike the germy surfaces of touchscreen devices, pens in public places are often the cleanest. They are cleaned often and people are less likely to put "public pens" in their mouths.