A Doctor Weighs In On Claims That Sharing Lip Balm Can Give You Herpes

Experts have warned against sharing lip balm with others as it increases the risk of transmitting bacteria and viruses like herpes and the 'flu.

Most of us have shared a friend or family member's lip balm -- or let them do the same -- but reports out of The Sun in the UK say that doing so could make us very sick.

Consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall was quoted as saying that she'd "never" share lipsticks or lip balms because "there's a lot of bacteria around the mouth and dipping into a shared pot of cream is risky."

Another expert, University of Westminster's Dr Manal Mohammed, added that microbes -- including the cold sore-causing and highly contagious herpes simplex virus -- are able to "go through membranes, such as those lining the mouth, eyes and nose and cause infections which can even lead to inflammation of the brain in at-risk individuals."

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The warm temperature and moist, fatty formula of lip balms such as Vaseline doesn't help either -- it makes them a nice little breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.

We spoke to the president of AMA NSW Dr Kean-Seng Lim and GP and host of Embarrassing Bodies Down Under Dr Brad McKay to find out if we should all give our Chapstick the flick.

Dr Lim confirmed that yes, sharing lip balm can be a way to transfer bacteria and viruses between people.

Common bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus can be transferred to cause a skin infection called impetigo -- also known as "school sores" -- while more sinister bacteria can also be transferred and make you extremely sick, Dr McKay explained.

Viruses like the common cold, 'flu, viral gastroenteritis, or cold sore viruses -- yup, that's herpes -- can also be easily transmitted from one person to the next via lip balm.

"My professional advice is that sharing lip balm is not a very good idea at all," Dr Lim told 10 daily.

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The bad news doesn't end there we're afraid -- letting your friend use your lip balm isn't the worst thing you can do.

There's actually a higher risk of catching something through sharing drink bottles -- that's because the likelihood of transmitting an infection depends on how much fluids are transferred.

If there's a break in the skin around or on the mouth then there's an even higher the risk of infection.

And of course, kissing someone with a cold sore -- or anything else contagious -- is like playing Russian Roulette as far as catching something.

So ... while you bin your lip balm maybe also chuck your drink bottle -- and your boyfriend or girlfriend while you're there.

Other things you shouldn't share according to Dr McKay:

  • Drink bottles or cups, particularly if you're sick
  • Earphones can spread skin infections like Otitis Externa -- "but this is unlikely," he said.
  • Both hairbrushes and hats can potentially transmit head lice
  • Underwear -- because, "No, just no!" said Dr McKay.
  • And toothbrushes? "Don't even go there," he said.

Feature image: Getty.