When you visit the mall, the last thing on your mind is running into a potential health hazard, aside from an accident on the escalator or getting a finger caught in a doorway (ouch!). However, you might be surprised at some of the disgusting things you might not even know about, lurking in various places around your local shopping mall. Here are five gross things to look for and avoid the next time you go weekend shopping:
1. Head Lice
Looking for a new sunhat to go with your summer frock, or a new cap of your favorite sports team? Here's something you should think about before trying on that new hat at the mall - head lice. While you should be mindful of other individuals who might have tried on the same hat, your biggest fear should be from returned merchandise.
A person with head lice might have worn the hat you're about to try on before deciding to return it. Many of these returned items are accepted with a receipt, if there are no signs of wear. Unfortunately, most store employees don't thoroughly check if a returned hat has, indeed, been worn as long as it looks like it is in good condition and the original purchaser has the receipt. Before you try on a hat, thoroughly inspect the hat for any signs it has been worn. Things like hair, sweat stains and even blood are signs that you should put the hat down, and back away. You can also try taking a whiff inside the hat; just don't get your face too close.
2. Foot Fungi
If you thought head lice sounded bad, then you need to stop and think about the foot fungi that might be hanging out in that new pair of sneakers. Just think about it - shoes are one of the most common articles of apparel that are tried on, but not purchased. While that guy with the athlete's foot is fishing for the right shoe size for his trainers, he is potentially spreading his foot fungus.
Make sure you always have socks on when you go shoe shopping at the mall, and if you forgot to wear a pair, ask for some loaner socks from the salesperson. When you bring your new shoes home, it wouldn't hurt to spray some disinfectant in the shoes to eliminate any surprise bacteria someone unknowingly left you as a present.
3. Contaminated Bathing Suits and Undergarments
It should go without saying that trying on anything at the mall that is meant to be worn around your private parts is an open invitation to fecal bacteria, pubic lice and staph infections. Thankfully, most shopping mall stores that sell undergarments and bathing suits inform their customers to keep their undergarments on when trying on these articles of clothing. Unfortunately, not all stores have this policy, and even for the ones that do, not everyone gets the message.
If you want to avoid exposure to fecal and vaginal flora the next time you're shopping for new undergarments, be sure to try the item on over your own undergarments. And, once you're finished trying on these items, make sure you wash your hands or use some hand sanitizer.
4. Shared Makeup
Many shops and department stores in most malls have sample makeup available for customers to try on for themselves. While most people tend to use these samples on their wrist or hand, others want to know exactly how it looks like on their face. That's right, they directly apply the stuff to their lips, or cheeks, or eyes, or mouth - basically anywhere bacteria can enter their body and wreak havoc. Consider the fact that most of these sample items have been shared by many, and are left out in the open to gather bacteria like a germ-filled sponge. Imagine a person with a cold sore applying lipstick directly on the mouth, then returning it to the sample rack. Yes, it is very possible.
Before you decide to try on a certain type of makeup, make sure a store employee has cleaned it with alcohol or disinfectant first. Use disposable makeup applicators, especially for eye makeup, where you are highly susceptible to infections like pink eye.
5. Bacteria Filled Surfaces
Stop and recount the number of things you touch in mall that might be teeming with bacteria. From escalator handles to the mall doors, there are dozens of ways you can get your hands dirty at the mall. This is why it is so important to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer on a regular basis. Some malls even have public hand sanitizer dispensers available for use.
During the holiday season, which coincides with the cold and flu season, it is very important to practice proper hand hygiene to avoid sickness. The next time you are riding up the escalator, think twice about holding on to the rail unless you absolutely must. Many of these bacteria laden locations are overlooked during mall cleanup.