By now you've probably heard about the strange case of the Kentucky woman who developed a horrific infection from a glittery hair tie. Yes, a hair tie. Her story spread throughout the internet like, well, like a horrific infection, causing women everywhere to view their accessories with fresh paranoia.
In case you managed to miss it, here's the gist—a few weeks ago, Louisville resident Audree Kopp discovered an abnormal bump growing on her wrist. When antibiotics proved futile, Kopp underwent emergency surgery, during which a doctor drained the roughly one-and-a-half-inch wide abscess—the result of three different types of infections.
Apparently, bacteria from the tie had seeped under Kopp’s skin through her pores and hair follicles, and all hell broke loose from there. (If you're the kind of person who enjoys grotesque medical photos, you can see the wound for yourself here.)
This isn't the first time the internet has lit up with a horror story about a seemingly innocent clothing item leading to a medical emergency—earlier this year we learned that wearing skinny jeans for too long can cause nerve damage and Spanx can compress your digestive tract—but a host of other objects can also cause gnarly infections and don't always get the viral treatment.
As a public service, we've compiled a list of some of the biggest infection-causing offenders. Check it out—for your health.
While it’s crucial to take extra care of your ears if they've been recently pierced, those of us who've had our ears pierced for years still aren't off the hook.
Wearing earrings with rough stems puts us at risk for scraping the piercing hole, creating a small wound through which bacteria—most commonly staph—can enter. And the problem is exacerbated if the earrings are unsterilized—so be sure to regularly sterilize your studs. Also, be sure to give your ears some breathing room—if you put your earrings on too tight, the lack of blood flow can make your ear more susceptible to contracting infections.
While we’re on the topic of jewelry—there’s a condition lovingly termed the "wedding ring rash." As much as it sounds like a curse an old sea witch might cast upon couples who have found true love, it’s actually a condition that occurs on the skin under jewelry that has been worn for a long time—for example, a wedding ring.
Zakia Rahman, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at Stanford University, told me in an email that wedding ring rash is clinically known as erosio interdigitalis blastomycetica and is basically a candida, or fungal, infection. "Candida is a yeast that thrives in warm, dark, and moist environments—like under a ring, where moisture can easily trap," Rahman said. "The skin in the area can become macerated and break down. It can be red and itchy."
The wedding ring rash can also be caused by a metal allergy—nickel is often used to stiffen up soft gold, and lots of folks are allergic to nickel. And Rahman did note that the infection can sometimes be a sign of underlying diabetes—candida is more present in those with diabetes.
Thankfully, it's a pretty straightforward condition to treat. "Sometimes an over-the-counter antifungal cream will do the trick, in addition to keeping the area under your ring dry," Rahman said. If left untreated, you may be left with some scarring.
Sure, girl, those fake nails look hot as all hell—but guess what? You can contract a serious fungal nail infection if you don’t take care of those babies, because nothing is sacred.
Nail hygienists recommend that acrylic nails be touched-up every two to three weeks. But for those of you who like to live on the wild side, the longer you go without touching up your acrylics or glue-ons, the easier the artificial nail can separate from your own nail, allowing moisture to seep in—and you do not want stuff to start growing in that gap.
While it might be fairly easy to ignore a fungal infection, if you don't take care of the problem, the fungus can spread to other parts of the body—or worse, the infection can spread. So, for the love of God, make sure to clean out that nook before re-gluing your stilettos.
For all the horror stories we hear from our eye doctors/the internet about the toll that improper care of contact lenses can take on our eyes (a.k.a. CAUSING BLINDNESS), many of us still subject our eye care to quite the gamble—whether it’s wearing 15-day lenses for four months or sleeping with them in or skipping out on cleaning the case (yes, you’re supposed wash that, too).
Last year, almost a million cases of keratitis—an infection of the cornea characterized by pain, inflammation, redness, excess tears or discharge, and blurred vision—were reported, according to the CDC, all due to improper contacts care or use.
Last month, we sent a bra over to a testing facility and discovered the undergarment carried some common bacteria that was relatively harmless—unless, as a professor informed us, the wearer had an open wound. But for bigger-breasted women, bras pose another danger: intertrigo, a rash infection that can develop in the underboob and other folds of skin.
"Intertrigo is a condition caused by excessive moisture and maceration of the breast tissue with underlying skin," Rahman told me. The rash infection can be caused by either candida or bacteria.
Either way, once again, moisture appears to be the culprit. "Tight-fitting clothing (the wrong bra size included) and excessive moisture also contribute," she said. Because perspiration cannot evaporate as easily when a bra is tight, the underboob becomes the perfect medium for bacterial, fungal, or even viral infections, breaking out into a rash often marked by a musty odor.
To treat intertrigo, Rahman advised keeping the region dry and trying an over-the-counter antifungal powder or cream.
So what's the moral of the story here? Everything can and will kill you if you let it. So be smart with your possessions. Keep your jewelry sterile, your contacts and nails clean, and that underboob dry!