Many of us wouldn't consider the impact of our handbag on our health, however research suggests this essential fashion item could be more risky than you think.
As our handbags tend to travel most places with us and are often placed on floors, they can easily pick up germs throughout the day.
A study by microbiologists tested swabs taken from the outside and bottom of handbags and found that your handbag could contain thousands, or even millions, of bacteria, including fecal bacteria and viruses that can cause colds and stomach upsets.
However, when it comes to your handbag, it's not just what's on the outside that counts.
Here are five health dangers lurking in your handbag:
Handbag health hazard 1: Water bottles
Many of us carry a bottle of water in our handbags to stay hydrated throughout the day.
However, while drinking water is great for our health, repeatedly drinking from plastic bottles could play havoc with your health.
Studies have suggested that dangerous chemicals called phthalates contained in the plastic can leach into the water over time, which may lead to hormone imbalances and fertility problems.
The concentration of these chemicals also increases the longer a bottle is stored.
For a safer way to stay hydrated, try switching to a different type of water bottle.
Glass bottles are a healthier solution and can be wrapped in a protective silicone sleeve, or try using a metal bottle such as stainless steel or aluminium if you are concerned about breakages.
Handbag health hazard 2: Makeup
If, like many women, your handbag is packed with various mascara tubes, makeup brushes and lipsticks, it may be time to have a handbag clearout.
Just as it's important to throw out old food once it's past its sell-by date, makeup should also be thrown away and replaced after a certain period of time as it can go off and harbour bacteria, particularly in the case of mascara.
Mascara can harbour bacteria that is transferred into the product after each application and which can reproduce in the dark, warm environment of the mascara tube.
Make sure you throw out mascara after six months to avoid eye infections and replace other products after roughly 18 months.
To further prevent the build-up of bacteria, wash makeup brushes regularly and avoid sharing makeup with friends.
Handbag health hazard 3: Used tissues
While many of us wouldn't admit to it, lots of women are guilty of wiping their nose while on the go and then stuffing the used tissue or hanky inside their bag.
However, the viruses that cause colds and the flu are fairly robust and can survive on tissues for significant periods of time.
Although you may be the only person using your handbag, it is still easy to spread these germs to others.
Every time you rummage through your bag your fingers can come into contact with the germs on used tissues which can then be spread to surfaces such as door handles and stair rails and easily passed on to others.
When you blow your nose, make sure you throw your tissue away as soon as possible, then wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser.
Handbag health hazard 4: Mobile phone
Mobile phones have always been a source of controversy when it comes to our health, with studies suggesting a link between mobile phone use and health conditions such as brain tumours, and the World Health Organisation admitting that they may cause cancer.
However, other experts have suggested that there is no evidence of this and more research is needed.
Aside from these potential serious health dangers, a study of mobile phones in Britain also found a more immediate danger associated with mobile phones, with their results showing that one in six mobile phones were contaminated with faecal matter.
A condition known as "texter's thumb" is also a potential danger for regular mobile phone users, with Virgin Mobile stating that mobile phones are the cause of a reported 3.8 million cases a year of repetitive strain injury.
Handbag health hazard 5: Heavy items
While the items in your handbag may all be innocent enough, an accumulation of heavy items such as books, gadgets and cosmetics can add up to a serious health hazard. With the rising number of items many of us feel the need to haul around, you could be carrying around several pounds of weight on your shoulders every day.
While you may not feel the effects of this immediately, lugging around a heavy handbag can have serious implications on your body and can eventually lead to serious back problems and neck pain as well as poor posture. To look after your health, try switching to a smaller bag and filling it only with the items that you feel are really necessary each time you leave the house.
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