Battling a cold is exhausting: Battling symptoms like sore throat, cough, congestion, and sneezing can steal your will to get up and go. Still, work beckons so you force yourself to head back in. You swig a glass of immunity-boosting OJ, pop some zinc, and head out the door.
Unfortunately because you are still exhausted from sleep deprivation and hopped up on cold meds, you forget to snag your box of tissues. As you begin to hack and sneeze en route to work you frantically fish through your bag hoping to find a much needed Kleenex. Instead, you come across a tissue that appears to have been buried there since last season’s bout with the flu (you seriously need to clean out your bag).
In a spate of desperation you use the tissue (and again, and again), then spend the rest of the day at your desk sipping on tea and chicken soup worrying if you possibly could have made yourself sick all over again by reusing that tissue?
Luckily, there’s no need to fret. Here’s the reassuring truth:
“Some viruses can last on counter tops and other surfaces for more than seven days and used tissues may hold the same risk, says Mia Finkelston, MD, a board Certified family physician who treats patients via LiveHealth Online, a network of physicians who provide care to consumers via telemedicine. “But their ability to cause an infection reduces rapidly and they don’t often survive longer than 24 hours,” she says.
In other words, the contagiousness of a virus found in a previously used tissue would decline with time, decreasing the chances of it being strong enough to cause an infection.
Furthermore, thanks to our sophisticated immune systems, we usually aren’t able to become infected with the same virus a second time around because our bodies created antibodies while fighting off the infection the first time. So though reusing a tissue may not come with the fear factor of getting sick, it sure does come with the ewww factor of it just seeming gross.