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Diseases You Can Catch From Your Towels

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Bring On the Clorox!

Are you sure you've properly washed your towels? Do you share your towels with a loved one or even your friends? Ewww! The next time you use a towel improperly, you might fall victim to one of the following contagions that's lurking on your towel!


Just because you got a good deal at Sears...

...doesn't mean they're a bargain.

I saw something really interesting at

Diseases contagious from __________

'Wow', I thought. Because really, it's practically a guide to anything you might catch from say pretty much anything you might catch something from. The general obvious ones are sex, animals, rodents, water, and food. But then I saw it.

"Diseases contagious from towels."

Harmless old towels? Why would they ever out to be vengeful against humankind? Sure, sometimes we wash them in boiling water and I'm sure some don't appreciate where we use them, but still. Is that enough harm to wreak havoc against us?

Either way, this makes a great topic for a lens, so let's explore!


Barber's Rash

"Skin infection in facial hair areas", also known as "Folliculitis". The underlying medical cause of this "rash" is Staphylococcus aureus or Staph Infection if you will. Staphylococcal infections can be notoriously hard to treat, and having one in your face... well... sucks to be you, dude. And it can spread to the rest of your body as well. Staphylococcus aureus isn't discriminatory!

Treatment is usually oral antibiotics. Don't be rubbing your face in a dirty towel, or with a towel used by someone who has a rash all over his or her face, ok?



"Contagious eye infection" aka "Pink Eye". Oh yeah, I had this a lot as a kid; I think if anything in a five foot radius had this, I got it. Mainly because I couldn't keep my hands out of my eyes. You try having such pale blue eyes any hint of light makes them water. Enough about me! Conjunctivitis is "a group of diseases that cause swelling, itching, burning, and redness of the conjunctiva, the protective membrane that lines the eyelids and covers exposed areas of the sclera, or white of the eye."

Not really a pretty picture, you know. Symptoms include "pink" eye, irritated, reddened, crusting, gritty, itchy eyes, swollen eyelid, eye pain and/or discomfort, light sensitivity, yellow discharge from the eye, or your eyelids glued shut after sleep. No wonder I disliked kindergarten so much. Treatments include several types of antibiotics, eye drops and ointments, Penicillin, and warm water washings to remove the crusting.



"Neisseria gonorrhoeae", a sexually transmitted infection. Yeah, you don't wanna be rubbing that filthy towel where it counts, do you. We're just lucky this STI is curable, although the "common" part really sucks. The bacteria can infect the genital tract, the mouth, and the rectum, and can also wreck havoc in a woman's cervix, womb, birth canal, and fallopian tubes. The end result for a woman might include pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, or ectopic pregnancy.

This is where you pay close attention to the symptoms! Which, I get to inform you, women especially might not see any of! Up to 50%! Geez. The list is long, so you get a stern order to read up on Gonorrhea!

Treatment is basically antibiotics, which range from Penicillin, Sulphonamides, Tetracyclines, Ceftriaxone, Cefixime, Ciprofloxacin to Ofloxacin; avoidance of rubbing your eyes and sexual activity, and careful hygiene to avoid contagion! Which means no towel sharing!

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"Contagious skin rash from bacteria". Did anyone see Cycle 4 of America's Next Top Model? Contestant Michelle got this and her face looked like it was dying, the skin peeling away and looking like a zombie had bitten her.

Impetigo is caused by different streptococci strains than those that cause strep throat and is most common among children age 2-6 years. Bummer kiddies. Symptoms include skin rash with pus and discharge, pimples, blisters, itching rash, dried scabs, excessive scratching, and a blistery rash that spreads. Sometimes on your face! Treatments include topical antibiotics, lotions, and antiseptic lotions, oral antibiotics, washing infected areas with warm salted water, and good personal hygiene.



"An infestation of the skin with the microscopic mite Sarcoptes scabei". Infestation is common, found worldwide, and affects people of all races and social classes. Scabies spreads rapidly under crowded conditions where there is frequent skin-to-skin contact between people. Like in hospitals, institutions, child-care centers, and nursing homes.

Symptoms are mainly rashes and itching all over the body, and infections that form in the skin from all the scratching. Ew. Treatments include lotions and ointments, sulfur, lotions to sooth the itching, hydrocortisone creams and washing every dang piece of linen and clothing you own in hot water.



"General term for various fungal skin afflictions" aka "That's NOT ringworm, buddy". Basically, not only can these fungal afflictions affect your skin, but also they can infect your nails. Symptoms include ring-like raised itchy patches, blisters, scabs, and temporary scalp hair loss at site of infection. Nail fungal infections include green or gray nails, and thick or brittle nails. You'll look like you're wearing Hallowe'en makeup effects on your hands.

Treatment includes antibiotics and antifungal creams, oral antifungal medications, good hygiene, and avoidance of synthetic material and moist skin.



"A chronic follicular conjunctivitis that leads to scarring in the conjunctiva and cornea." Can lead to blindness. Seriously, who ever thought this could come from a towel!? Early symptoms are red and/or watering eyes with swollen eyelids and sensitivity to bright lights. About 7 to 10 days later, small red lumps appear on the eyelids. About 3-4 weeks later, you get multiple lumps on your eyelids and they grow bigger. The fourth stage is when it spreads to the cornea and eye, giving you nasty eye pain, corneal scarring and dimming vision that gets progressively worse until you are flat out blind. No picnic.

Luckily treatments are available and include antibiotics, eye creams, surgical correction of eyelid deformity and corneal grafting. Basically a bunch of eye surgery once you reach 3-4 weeks of the condition.



"Sexually transmitted parasitic infection." Oh yeah, more bugs! Trichomonas vaginalis is a microscopic parasite found worldwide and is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, mainly affecting 16-to-35-year old women. Again, most of the times you don't get symptoms, and men are the ones who really don't get any, but they can include itching, burning, pain, irritation, painful urination, discharge, and odor.

The two treatments are antibiotics and Metronidazole, plus you get to inform any sexual partners and make them get the same treatment. Woo! That's a buzz kill, isn't it! Failure to get treatment can lead to re-infection.

Learn more about the history of diseases!

© 2008 missbat

Did you find this lens fascinating or did you get totally grossed out? I bet you're going to wash your towels properly from now on!

Eyjafjallajokull on July 03, 2016:

I have almost always washed my towels with hot water and Clorox Bleach. I was diagnosed with trich 29 years ago during a routine visit to my OBGYN when I was pregnant. I was mortified to have been told I had trich since I didn't sleep around and did not suspect my husband of cheating either so I asked the doctor how I could've gotten Trich. He told me I could get it from re-using my bath towel (which I sometimes did occasionally after it hung and was dry). After reading other info about Trich I have to wonder if my husband did cheat on me or if it was really the towel. I guess I will never know but I will continue to use bleach to launder my white towels and sheets.

Indi-ish on August 23, 2013:


cassieann on September 01, 2012:

Couldn't resist reading. I never share my towels and now for sure never will!! Very interesting lens.

anonymous on August 28, 2012:

Thank goodness for Clorox

KReneeC on May 12, 2012:

So grossed out but also GREAT information! I never ever liked the thought of anyone else using my towel. But I know of others that share towels and this is definitely a lens they should be reading!

OUTFOXprevention1 on March 06, 2012:

Disgusting but needed information! Great lens!

ben10ten lm on January 11, 2012:

The gym is such a bacteria playground, never use the same workout towel more than once without washing it.

thesmartestone on December 16, 2011:


RobinDM on November 24, 2011:

Good grief! I had no idea!

magicshine1 on November 07, 2011:

ew - sometimes it's better not to know!

anonymous on November 01, 2011:

Ew! I knew I'd be grossed out when I clicked, but I couldn't resist reading it!

anonymous on October 13, 2011:

Ugh, I guess I learned a lot from this lens lol, but I am a tad grossed out!!

anonymous on August 11, 2011:

a bit of both fascinating and disgusting, like a fatal car crash.

anonymous on June 29, 2011:

Thank u for this informative lens!

bames24 lm on June 07, 2011:

I have my towels washed everyday... :)

anonymous on June 05, 2011:

Well, I'm a little uncomfortable right now and I don't even share a towel with anyone. Yes, bring on the clorox!

blessedmomto7 on March 16, 2011:

Ewww. I change my towels daily!

Moe Wood from Eastern Ontario on December 29, 2010:

I knew as soon as I saw the title I shouldn't click on it but what did I go and do? I clicked on it. Eww!

Tempus on December 13, 2010:

Help! I never want to use a towel again. Ew, and what about hotel towels -arggh I can feel an itch starting right now!!!

Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on November 29, 2010:

Ugh, now I will look strangely at all my towels! Seriously I didn't know we could catch anything real serious from them. The only think I was aware of, is the fact that we should wash newly bought ones at least once before using them, because the dyes in them are harsh chemicals are can give rash...

Lisa Auch from Scotland on November 25, 2010:

I really want to Bless this lens, for talking about such an important, and not very known topic! well done ~Blessed by an Angel~

Lisa Auch from Scotland on November 25, 2010:

Yep - Impetigo has blighted my life for year, usually on the nose, like rudolph (Stress related!) whenever it breaks out there are rules about faceclothes towels etc, because I would hate for ANYONE to suffer over the years like I have, it is so important to keep the infected area clean at all times, my laundry triples! Any cures welcome.....

Kiwisoutback from Massachusetts on November 16, 2010:

Desgusting! You've made a good case for air drying.

Kathy McGraw from California on October 30, 2010:

Good thing you had that bleach up there because after reading this I wanted to go bleach the whole house :) I can't imagine getting some of those diseases just from the towel. Blessed by an Angel :)

Jeanette from Australia on October 29, 2010:

Can I second that - Ew Gross! Maybe you should include a section on how to wash your towels properly. Is using cold water okay?

totalhealth on October 06, 2010:

i never thought you can get such diseases from a towel. thanks for the valuable information.

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on September 25, 2010:

EEK! This makes me want to go round up all of our towels and wash them in hot, hot water and bleach, twice!!!

Anthony Godinho from Ontario, Canada on September 13, 2010:

Wow, who could have imagined all those contagions in towels. We definitely need to stay aware of this and act accordingly. Great job on this lens and well presented!

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on August 11, 2010:

Amazing. I had no idea.

Oosquid on December 24, 2009:

Yehwww! Towels, get them away from me. I'm going to air dry myself from now on!

Fascinating lens, 5 stars, favorited and stumbled.

KimGiancaterino on December 20, 2009:

Yuck! I'm pretty fanatical about our kitchen towels, but now I'll be even more careful.

Joan Hall from Los Angeles on December 03, 2009:

Yikes! I had never heard of someone getting gonorrhea or trich from a towel!

Outstanding lens! I'm glad I read it, I think.

CCGAL on July 19, 2009:

Thank You. This vindicates my preference for using bleach and hot water to wash sheets, towels, and socks & underwear. You know, I learned most of this in grade school - but then again, I was in grade school in the 60's, and my children didn't learn half as much practical application information as I did.

I would like to see some graphics with this lens, especially in the introduction module, and if you put more words into the intro, you may find your Google traffic increasing.

Lisa Marie Gabriel from United Kingdom on July 19, 2009:

I promise to only use them once from henceforth! Scary info, but thank you!

elliespark on January 06, 2009:

Oh, my gosh!! THANK YOU for sharing all of this pertinent information with us...! I'm appalled all these wee-germs could be infesting normal bathroom towels. Great information! 5/5~

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