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Sharing Drinks Out of a Water Bottle: How Bad Could it be?

Sharing Drinks Out of a Water Bottle: How Bad Could it be?

Remember cooties? All the girls had ‘em! Or was it the boys who had cooties?

Either way, it brings to mind the glory days of adolescent development: hanging out on the playground, sipping juice flavored drinks from a straw, and hoping not to be picked last for kickball.

Sharing drinks was unimaginable (especially with the opposite sex). This unthinkable act would undoubtedly lead to contracting something terrible. But now, as an adult, much wiser and more mature, the notion of cooties has been thrown out the window along with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny a long time ago.

Although you and I both know cooties has nothing to do with it, maybe this early paranoia wasn’t completely unfounded. Maybe your younger self had good reason to avoid sharing drinks.

two bottles on the beach

How bad can it be to share a drink with someone?

We’re in an age where there’s a hyper phobia for just about anything. Some of these fears seem ludicrous. But with time we have also become more aware. Something that may have seemed crazy several years ago now seems completely reasonable.

This leads us to the question: can you catch something from sharing a drink with someone? Your six-year-old self may not have been right about catching cooties from communal drinks, but sharing drinks can lead to the spread of certain illnesses and diseases.

two water bottles

Yes, you can catch something from sharing a drink.

Nowadays, everyone has a beverage within reach. And it’s great that there’s an increase in hydration awareness, but it’s also led to an increased opportunity to the spread of germs.

Whenever a drink is shared there is sure to be a transfer of salvia. And you probably consider yourself a generally clean and healthy person (and assume the same of the one you’re sharing a beverage with). But salivary transfer can lead to the spread of germs and viruses.

The most common ailments to be transmitted via saliva are strep throat, the common cold, and mumps. Although rare, there’s also the possibility of meningitis. And even less common, but still a real possibility, cold sores, and mononucleosis (sometimes called the “kissing disease”) can be transferred through saliva.

The topic of what exactly can be transferred through shared utensils and drinking devices has been debated. And authoritative voices have argued against the possibility of certain diseases being transferred these means. But in a 2013 Huffington Post article, Dr. Thomas P. Connelly made an interesting observation. He notes a seemingly contradictory claim in the CDC’s HBV FAQ.

“The CDC says, “HBV is not spread through food or water, sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, hand holding, coughing, or sneezing” (we can pretty much safely assume they mean water bottles there, too). But then, take a look on that page just a little above that statement — they say “HBV is transmitted through activities that involve percutaneous (i.e., puncture through the skin) or mucosal contact with infectious blood or body fluids (e.g., semen, saliva).” See it right there — saliva.

Then, a few lines down, they state the question: “How long does HBV survive outside the body?”, and they answer it with “HBV can survive outside the body at least seven days and still be capable of causing infection.”

See what’s going on there? They first say that no, it can’t be caused by sharing a fork (I’m obviously paraphrasing this), then they say but it’s in saliva and can live outside the body for seven days. So if the fork goes in your mouth, and the disease can be in saliva, and can live outside the body for seven days...

You know what that says to me? That says don’t share forks (or water bottles) with someone who has hepatitis B.”

don't share your drink

Know who’s sharing your drink

The possibility that disease can be spread through simply taking a swig of someone’s water may seem silly. In a world of “Oh, that looks good – mind if I have a sip?” sharing beverages can be an everyday occurrence. Dr. Connelly admits that this notion may be perceived as paranoia by some.

But I think his drink sharing philosophy would be wise to contemplate. The next time you consider sharing a drink, consider this (sexual preferences aside): would you kiss this person on the lips?

So get your own bottle and stop taking your friends!