The Nine Grossest Things Other People Do That Can Make You Sick, by

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These nine disgusting habits that other people commonly engage in can not only turn your stomach, but literally make you sick, leading to colds, whooping cough, the flu, SARS and even more serious diseases!

This information is not for the squeamish or the easily sickened. This information is for anyone who has ever watched as someone sneezed into his hand and then came at them for a handshake, or wondered if that chef who came out of the bathroom really washed her hands. While anyone can get sick as a result of these gross habits, the information is especially pertinent to the following groups of people who are most at risk from germs:

• Young children

• The elderly

• People with compromised immune systems

• Pregnant women

• People with severe illness

• People taking antibiotics or antacids

1. Coughing and Sneezing

Serious respiratory illnesses like influenza (the flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are spread by coughing, sneezing and unclean hands, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Droplet spread" is the term used to describe respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes that are passed from person to person. If someone sneezes or coughs near you, particularly without covering their mouth, droplets will move through the air and can be deposited on your mouth or nose, or on a desk or other surface where they can be picked up later.

2. Nose Diving

Fingers that have been inside a nose are filled with germs that will be transferred to just about every surface they touch. Though this is particularly problematic among preschoolers and young children, adults can do it too (remember that Seinfeld episode?) If you notice someone wiping or picking their nose, be wary about touching anything they have touched.

3. Not Washing Hands After the Bathroom

The number of germs on your hands can double after you use the toilet, yet -- though most people won't admit it -- experts say up to one-third of the population does not wash their hands after using the bathroom. Unwashed hands can spread not only colds, flus and viruses, as mentioned above, but also diarrhea and other intestinal problems. If you don't think washing your hands is necessary, consider that the CDC says that washing hands is the single most important way to prevent the spread of infections.

4. Digging for Gold

This popular pastime mostly applies to young toddlers who aren't yet aware that picking underwear out of their backsides isn't socially acceptable, but can also apply to adults who just don't care that it is. Again this gets into the possibility of spreading germs from one potentially quite dirty area to the fingers and then to tables, doorknobs and other surfaces that you may touch. In the case of preschoolers, Parents Magazine says that children under 4 may lack the motor skills to wipe properly, leading to "sloppy wiping" that can be quite messy if a parent doesn't step in to help.

5. Spraying it Not Saying It

How many times have you been in a close conversation with someone when all of a sudden you feel a spray on your face? Those tiny drops of saliva that land on your lips, chin, nose, cheeks or eyes could be full of flu and other respiratory diseases like tuberculosis. Spitting on the ground can also transmit disease, particularly when the saliva dries and particles are swept up into the air where they can be inhaled.

6. Teeth Pickin'

You finish a tasty meal only to look over at your companion who's picking away at their molars. Similar to coughing, sneezing and spitting, this practice has the potential to transfer germs from the mouth onto the fingers and then onto any surface the person touches. Even if a toothpick is used, though preferable to a finger, saliva can creep up over the stick and onto the hand.

7. Double-Dipping

Dip a chip, bite it, dip again ... germs! All it takes is one person to double-dip a chip and the entire bowl of guacamole becomes ridden with germs and bacteria. Not surprisingly, a survey by Kimberly Clark tissue makers found that 13 percent of holiday partygoers said they would avoid foods that could have been plagued by double-dipping.

8. Clipping Nails in Public

Some estimates say that 95 percent of the bacteria on your hands is found under your fingernails. So while keeping your nails short is a good thing bacterially speaking, cutting them in a public place is not. It is, however, a good way to spread that bacteria all around.

9. Dousing in Perfume

People who wear tons of perfume or cologne are not just unpleasant to be around -- they represent a real health hazard for people with allergies, asthma or multiple chemical sensitivities. Chemicals used in perfumes (read this past article for more on the little-known dangers of chemicals in cosmetics) are almost entirely synthetic, as these are cheaper than natural fragrances, and only about 1,500 of the more than 5,000 materials used in fragrances have been tested for safety.

As many as 30 percent of the public say they have some sensitivity to chemicals, including fragrances, according to the University of Texas Health Sciences Center. Even more serious than that, the American Lung Association reports that exposure to fragrance chemicals may result in dangerous and painful asthma attacks in which muscle spasms, fluid and excess mucous obstruct the airways. provides the Web’s #1 relationship, personal, family and home safety and wellness e-newsletter at no cost, with useful and practical information, statistics and guidance from the world’s leading experts on how to best enhance yourself and your relationships, and protect yourself and loved ones from illness, injuries, crime, violence, disasters, scams and more. To see the full "Nine Grossest Things Other People Do That Can Make You Sick" article now, go to

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(Note: This is a condensed version of the full article that contains more compelling information and recommendations to avoid the grossest things at authorizes reprinting of this article or excerpts thereof as long as is credited as the author and, if reprinted online, at least one live link to is established in the reprint. If referred to on-air, SixWise greatly appreciates a notice and recommendation to readers of the source!)

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John Dearlove
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