Common Hygiene Myths You Shouldnt Believe

Do Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis follow the five-second rule?

Actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis recently raised a stink on social media when they revealed that bathing isn’t a part of their family’s daily schedule. During an appearance on Dax Shepard and Monica Padman’s podcast Armchair Expert, the celebrity couple divulged that they bathe only when absolutely necessary.

"Here's the thing — if you can see the dirt on 'em, clean 'em. Otherwise, there's no point,” Kutcher said about when they opt to give their kids a bath. As for Kunis herself, she says she doesn’t wash her whole body with soap every day, “but I wash pits and tits and holes and soles,” while her husband joked that he washes his “armpits and my crotch daily, and nothing else ever.”

The celebrity couples aren’t wrong when it comes to this hygiene habit, says Darren P. Mareiniss, MD, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “Daily showers can dry your skin, and antibacterial soap can kill normal skin flora,” he explains.

That said, daily showers are not a real cause for concern or a health hazard, notes Dr. Mareiniss.

The idea that most people need to shower daily isn’t the only hygiene myth out there. We asked experts like Dr. Antaya and Mareiniss about similar common misconceptions to set the record straight.

Hygiene Myth 1: You Need to Use Q-tips to Clean Your Ears

Q-tips were invented in 1923, when the company's founder, Leo Gerstenzang, observed his wife adding wads of cotton to toothpicks in order to clean out their baby’s ear. But the company no longer formally endorses them for hygienic purposes.

Douglas M. Hildrew, MD, an otologist and the medical director of the hearing and balance program at Yale Medicine, confirms that the idea that you need to stick ’em in your ears to clean them is false — and potentially unsafe.

Hygiene Myth 2: Douching Will Clean Your Vagina

Like your ears, your vagina cleans itself. Impressive, right?

That doesn’t mean people haven’t tried to help out, with douching, for example. Douching dates back to the 19th century. It has been used for everything from birth control, with Lysol touted as the active, sperm-killing ingredient in the 1930s, according to Smithsonian Magazine, to preventing infection. Yet there is zero proof backing up these claims.

“In fact, douching is often damaging to the vaginal flora (normal bacteria present) and changes the natural pH in the vagina,” says Mareiniss, noting that the majority of doctors do not recommend the practice. “By douching, women can increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis (BV) — a vaginal infection — pelvic inflammatory disease, and ectopic pregnancy.” The Office on Women’s Health adds that this unneeded cleaning can make you more likely to develop sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well. What’s more, douching during pregnancy can cause preterm labor, Mareiniss says.

Hygiene Myth 3: Always Wash Your Hands With Hot Water

It’s true: Boiling water effectively kills harmful bacteria, as the World Health Organization points out. But there’s no scientific evidence that washing your hands with scalding hot water is necessary to clean them, Mareiniss says. He maintains that warm water is just as effective as hot.

Hygiene Myth 4: The 5-Second Rule Means Food Is Safe to Eat

The five-second rule dates back to the 1200s, when Genghis Khan reportedly implemented the “Khan rule” at his banquets, stating that “if food fell on the floor, it could stay there as long as Khan allowed,” according to the Science Friday website.

Over the years, it turned into the “five-second rule,” which you probably heard about as a kid. But dropping food on the floor for even one second and then eating it may be harmful, says Thomas Murray, MD, PhD, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist and an associate professor of pediatrics at Yale Medicine. “Bacteria can attach to food as soon as it hits the ground,” he explains. “The longer it sits there, it is reasonable more bacteria may attach, but I don’t think one can assume if food is picked up in five seconds it is not contaminated.” This is especially true if this surface, such as a floor, is not cleaned frequently.

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