One piece of advice you’ve probably heard is that you should wash new clothes before you wear them. If you’ve ignored this advice, you might want to change your mind. Wearing new clothes right off the rack could result in contracting a host of illnesses. There are several diseases and infections you could get from clothing, even if they’re brand new.
Here are some of the disgusting organisms found on new clothes and the illnesses they can cause. You’ll want to do your laundry right away after reading this.
Dr. Donald Belsito, a dermatologist at Columbia University Medical Center says some clothing contains dye and traces of formaldehyde, which can cause severe skin irritation. Urea formaldehyde resins are sometimes used to prevent cotton-polyester blends from wrinkling and reduce mildew formation, Dr. Belsito told The Wall Street Journal. However, some fabrics go beyond the allowable levels. As a result, you could end up getting allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. Both are types of eczema.
That’s right—lice. Tons of people handle store clothing before it gets to you. Even if you purchase clothing made from 100% natural fibers, you can still run into trouble. Dr. Belsito told The Wall Street Journal that lice can attach themselves to clothing. “I have seen cases of lice that were possibly transmitted from trying on in the store … Lice can’t last long without a host, but they do tend to attach better to natural fibers than synthetics,” Belsito told the newspaper.
Another unwelcome result of wearing new clothes before you wash them is scabies. This is a skin condition that causes severe itching. Scabies is caused by a small burrowing mite called sarcoptes scabiei, according to Mayo Clinic. Itching is usually worse at night. Scabies is contagious and is spread through close contact. Since scabies is so contagious, doctors usually recommend that an entire household is treated if you’re living with other people.
After testing several items of clothing from both high-end and low-end stores, Dr. Philip Tierno, a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University School of Medicine, discovered disturbing results. He told Good Morning America some of the clothes had evidence of feces, respiratory secretions, and skin flora. One illness that could result from coming into contact with some of the germs found on store clothing is norovirus, which can cause significant diarrhea. Norovirus is very contagious and can be found in stool. Some signs and symptoms of norovirus are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
A serious staph infection called MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) can also be transmitted through unwashed clothing. Some MRSA infections can be life threatening. Although staph is one of the most common causes of skin infections in the United States, it can lead to serious infections. You might feel safe wearing new clothes right away, but Dr. Tierno has a warning. “Most people are unaware and think that they can’t really catch anything from these clothes because they are dry, they are on the rack and they are new. They are not realizing that numerous individuals try them on and contact certain parts of their body that may transmit potential pathogens,” said Tierno.
Be very careful during swimsuit season. Swimsuits are teeming with all kinds of nasty fungi and bacteria. This is one item of clothing you want to handle with care when it comes to trying it on and wearing it for the first time. Although many women’s swimsuits come with a protective seat liner, it’s best to keep your undergarments on when trying on a swimsuit. You might not get the best fit, but you’ll reduce your chances of catching an illness. Dr. Tierno, told Good Morning America that swimwear, underwear, and other intimate apparel harbor the most organisms.
How to protect yourself
According to Dr. Tierno, you can reduce your chances of getting sick from fungi and bacteria by washing new clothes and drying them on high heat. In addition, if you’re planning to try on an outfit at the store, wear clothes underneath. Finally, wash your hands thoroughly after you handle new clothes. Prevention is one of the keys to staying healthy.
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