Embarrassing Questions: Could I catch something from wearing secondhand stuff?


Q:I love vintage stores, but could I catch something from wearing secondhand stuff?

A:Heard of scabies? The most common stowaways in secondhand threads are Sarcoptes scabiei (aka scabies)-eight-legged mites that burrow into your skin and cause intense itching and blisters. But you can still look fabulous in vintage with these tips:

Be picky about your stores. Good vintage and consignment shops (as opposed to the rummage sale in a church basement) are careful about what goods they take, so you're less likely to have a problem.

Bag your buys. Before you wear someone else's cast-offs, starve the mites. Keep all your purchases in a plastic bag and stash them in the garage or basement for two weeks. They'll die of starvation.

Wash clothes well. Take the bag of retro threads straight to your laundry room. Don't risk someone opening the bag and spreading the possible mites around. Wash in hot water and dry them on high heat. If something can't be washed at home, take it to a dry cleaner.

Check out your bites. If you've already developed an itch and blisters, it's time to see your doctor. She may prescribe permethrin or crotamiton, topical meds that kill the bugs quickly (though you may still itch for several weeks). And because scabies is contagious (the mites are easy to pass around), your doctor will likely treat everyone in your family and others you all come into close contact with on a regular basis, even if they don't show any signs of scabies yet.

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