What Really Happens When You Reuse Your Tissue

You may be guilty of this. While at home in bed suffering from a bad cold, you find yourself clinging onto the same crumpled tissue for days like a new-found security blanket. A little gross? Maybe. But it can't be too terrible right? After all, our grandparents carried handkerchiefs around in their pockets like we do with our cellphones. But with all those germs spread onto that tissue from sneezing and coughing, can reusing it keep us from getting well?

As it turns out, your new 'security blanket' is just that, and not as detrimental to your road to recovery as you might have thought. Mia Finkelston, M.D., a family physician with LiveHealthOnline, tells The Healthy, "Some viruses can last on counter tops and other surfaces for more than seven days and used tissues may hold the same risk," she explains. "But their ability to cause an infection reduces rapidly and the germs don't often survive longer than 24 hours."

There are other infection threats to consider

You can breathe a sigh of relief knowing your reused tissue isn't likely to prolong your sickness, but there are other infection threats to consider. When you have been sneezing or coughing into your tissue, the germs can spread onto your hands making the surfaces you touch a prime spot for harmful germs to sit and wait to infect their next unknowing victim. 

So if you are using a tissue, old or new, make sure to wash your hands often. Samuel N. Grief, M.D., medical director at CVS Health in Chicago, shares with Everyday Health, "Hand-washing is the best way to prevent colds and other respiratory and infectious diseases that are transmitted by hand to mouth or hand to nose and eye contact." He goes on to remind us of the value of soap. "Soap acts as a vehicle to trap the germs that are loosened by the act of rubbing your hands together under water. These germs can then be rinsed away by the water," says Grief. 

Being sick is never fun. And the battle towards recovery may feel long and foggy from sleepless nights, medicines, and the stress of wondering how you can possibly catch up with that ever-growing workload that's waiting like a gift for being back on your feet. So don't beat yourself up for reusing that grimy tissue — just wash your hands after.