Our Winter Coats Could Be the Reason We're Sick All Season


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Now that we're in January, we can safely (and ironically) say that we're in the heat of winter, and that means our winter garments are getting a lot of wear and tear. We throw that stuff on every time we step out the door, but how often does it ever make it into the washing machine? Is it always either on the coatrack or tucked away in storage? Turns out, there's a health consequence to that.

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Since we constantly wear our coats out in public and rarely think about throwing them in the wash, this can lead to bacteria and germ buildup that ultimately can make us sick, Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, told the New York Post.

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"They probably get pretty gross, because people don't tend to wash them a lot -- what, once a year?" he said. "Compare them to men's ties. Like coats, those get stowed away rather than cleaned, and they're among the grossest things I've ever studied."

"This clothing can harbor bacteria, viruses that can be spread and can be a mode for transmission of infection," James Swiencicki, an infectious disease specialist, told WIVB.com.

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Not washing your coat since you were last sick can lead to reinfection too. 

Gerba suggests taking your winter coat to the dry cleaners at least a few times during winter -- and especially right before putting it back in storage come spring, otherwise risk storing germs for an entire year too.

But some of the worst winter clothes offenders are your gloves. Let's just take a moment to think about everything your poor gloves touch in a single day. For instance, a recent study found that a grocery store shopping cart has 361 times more bacteria than a bathroom doorknob, and many of those bacteria types were considered harmful to humans' immune systems. Ick

Kill these germs by throwing your non-leather gloves in the washer and on the hottest water setting. Also consider wiping them down with sanitizing wipes every now and then. For leather gloves, a professional or saddle soap mixed with warm water will do the trick. 

Thankfully, scarves and hats don't harbor so many germs since they don't usually touch public surfaces, but a weekly or so wash will do them well.

Excuse me, I need to go to take myself to the dry cleaners ASAP.

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