Working with other nurses, docs, and medical experts for nearly thirty years – plus, parenting two kids and managing a home – I know there are plenty of frightening things out in the world.
Like lots of people, I appreciate Halloween and all the scares that come with it. It seems this time of year people try to frighten each other on purpose, with witches, goblins, and ghosts! However, there’s just no need to be frightened by things that carry a very low fear-factor. That’s why, this month I’m taking on some common myths about things people are afraid of that shouldn’t be feared at all, like warts, cooties, and… drum-roll please – public toilets.
1. People can catch warts from frogs.
Frogs don’t actually have warts, and if they did, they would only give them to other frogs. People get the wart germ from people. Any tiny skin abrasion is a good place for the germ to enter the body and cause warts. That’s why hand-washing is of the utmost importance, but not if you’re a frog.
2. Warts can be cured.
Even after warts are long-gone, the wart virus lives in your body, so warts cannot be cured. You can treat or remove warts using surgery, electrocautery (or burning), acid prescriptions, or freezing. Any cures you’ve heard about involving potatoes, duct tape, nail polish, etc. are harmless, but not proven effective – although, some people swear by them. In many cases the warts will disappear naturally after about 6 months. (Which, not coincidentally, may be the exact amount of time it took your neighbor’s warts to disappear when he used that Internet-recommended potato treatment.) If the warts don’t go away, or they multiply, see your doctor.
3. Warts can only appear on your fingers.
Actually, warts can show up anywhere on your body. Other common places are on the feet and knees. While genital warts are quite Common as well, it’s interesting to note that you cannot spread warts from your hands to your genitals. Genital warts are a different strain of virus and are transmitted by sexual contact.
4. Cooties exist and are attached to certain (or all) persons of the opposite sex.
While this feels like something you may have heard again and again and again, cooties are neither real, nor gender-specific. That doesn’t mean the term doesn’t have historical roots. Back in the fifteenth century, when a person had lice, fleas, or other parasites, they were said to have cooties. These days, it’s a schoolyard taunt commonly used by kids in preschool and elementary school.
5. Teasing classmates about cooties is harmless.
Name-calling and bullying starts young, and it needs to stop young. The classic cooties taunt might seem mild, but it’s almost always delivered with the intent to tear someone down. The child told they have cooties will have their feelings hurt. If you hear it happening, step in and stop it – no matter how old you are.
6. You can get a shot to prevent cooties.
Everyone knows being up-to-date on vaccinations is important, but there is no shot to protect against cooties – real or imagined. When I recently heard a young girl ask her mother if she could get a shot to protect her from the boy cooties at school, I wanted to jump in and answer the girl’s question, but I managed to hold back.
About Toilet Seats…
7. Public bathrooms are nastier than private bathrooms.
Studies show all bathrooms – yours, your sister’s, the one at the rest area on I-95 – are prime breeding grounds for germs. This is no surprise. That’s why we are supposed to (here it comes again) wash your hands!
8. A public toilet seat is the pinnacle of gross-iosity.
In fact, many studies have been conducted to test the germs present on a number of different bathroom surfaces. The winner? The bathroom floor was the dirtiest surface. When you are in a public restroom especially, never set your purse or purchases on the floor. And please don’t let your children crawl, lie down, or play there. So what was the least germy surface in the restroom? You guessed it. The toilet seat. The most frequent contamination to the toilet seat occurs when female patrons attempt to hover above the seat. Using the seat cover does not appear to offer a significant benefit. So by all means, have a seat, and don’t feel guilty about it.
9. The public bathroom sink is so dirty that you shouldn’t use it.
First, if you’ve learned anything while reading this, it’s that washing your hands is always a good idea. Furthermore, the sink and sink handles are not as germy as you think. Many people use paper towels to turn the faucets and open the doors. This actually makes the surfaces pretty clean for the rest of us. So, I’ll say it one more time: Always, always, always wash your hands!
There are lots of scary things out there, that’s for sure! But perhaps now, with these myths busted, you can stop worrying about a few of them and focus on the ghosts, goblins, and other frightening things. Like how much candy your kids eat this Halloween.