BY HIV Plus Editors
July 25 2008 12:00 AM ET
We all take little steps to prolong the use of our health products or to make taking care of ourselves a little bit easier. Now RealSimple.com takes a look at several common health shortcuts and ranks their health risks on a scale from 1 (relatively safe) to 5 (watch out!).
> Wearing disposable contacts longer than recommended. Risk: 5. The longer you use them, the more germs they harbor.
> Popping someone else's prescription sleeping pills. Risk: 4. You might experience dangerous drug interactions and adverse side effects that the pills' owner doesn't.
> Going barefoot in the gym shower. Risk: 2. There's only a slight chance of picking up a fungal infection.
> Not finishing a prescribed course of antibiotics. Risk: 5. Even if you feel well, there still could be bacteria in your body that can lead to a relapse.
> Trying on pierced earrings. Risk: 1. If your piercings have healed, you're at no risk of infection.
> Eating food past its expiration date. Risk: 2. When in doubt throw it out, but most packaged foods are still good for a few more days.
> Eating unwashed fruit. Risk: 5. Unwashed fruit can carry dirt, pesticides, bird droppings, and even insect parts.
> Delaying routine physicals. Risk: 1. Depending on your age, sex, and overall health, yearly exams aren't always needed.
> Taking an extra painkiller. Risk: 3. Just one extra aspirin or over-the-counter painkiller still typically falls within acceptable dosages. Not so with prescription meds.
> Staying up all night. Risk: 2. Other than fatigue and lack of clarity the next day, an occasional all-nighter doesn't pose a health risk.
> Sleeping on the same sheets for more than a week. Risk: 1. Gross? Yes. But in general dirty sheets don't pose a health hazard.