Could Your Scarf Make You Sick?
Could that plush, soft scarf you're wearing to stay warm actually make you sick? And what about your gloves? Are they germ carriers, too?
Probably. In fact, holding your scarf up to your nose or mouth certainly has the potential to transfer your own bacteria, viruses and other organisms to the fabric. In turn, your scarf and gloves may brush up against contaminated surfaces at work, in stores, in restaurants or other public places and infect you or others.
"It is easy to pick up germs on fabrics like scarves and gloves, and they can live on those fabrics for as long as 90 days or more," TriHealth Infection Prevention Officer Carolyn Fiutem, MSOL, CIC, FAPIC, says. Some germs live only for a few minutes while others can live for months and years, Fiutem adds. So, it's good to be cautious about where you put your hands, gloves or scarf.
To further protect yourself, disinfect daily any surfaces frequently touched, such as doorknobs, drawer handles, phones and computer keyboards. Use Clorox wipes for hard surfaces or a 1:10 bleach/water solution for highly infectious situations.
Being aware of these germs is a start to staying healthy. Fiutem also advises following these guidelines:
- To prevent the spread of germs to yourself or others, wash your hands frequently, including after touching your face, before and after handling food, after using the restroom, before starting work, before leaving work and after pumping gas. "Hand hygiene is the single most important way of preventing the spread of infections," Fiutem says.
- Routinely wash scarves and gloves made of washable fabrics to rid them of lingering germs. For leather or delicate products, websites such as howtocleanstuff.net offer cleaning tips.
- Don't use your teeth to take off your gloves, as you may pick up germs and add germs.
- Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth (the T-zone), since germs like to enter the body through these areas.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than into your scarf or gloves to avoid spreading your germs to others.
- Use a sanitizing wipe to clean the handle of a cart when you're out shopping.
Don't Spread Your Germs
Fiutem notes that it's also important not to spread your own germs when you're sick. "If you have fever, vomiting or diarrhea, you are contagious. Don't take medicine and then go to work because you feel a little better. The medicine made you more comfortable, but you are still infectious."
For most germs, you should be free of symptoms without medication for 48 hours before you are not infectious.
Last Updated: February 13, 2017