CHICAGO, July 19 (UPI) -- Folk wisdom may say a dropped a hot dog or baby's pacifier is OK to put in one's mouth if picked up with 5 seconds, but a U.S. expert says they're contaminated.
"A dropped item is immediately contaminated and can't really be sanitized," Dr. Jorge Parada, medical director of the infection prevention and control program at Loyola University Health System near Chicago, said in a statement. "If you rinse off a dropped hot dog you will will probably greatly reduce the amount of contamination, but there will still be some amount of unwanted and potentially non-beneficial bacteria on that hot dog."
Parada said what is dropped and where it is dropped will make a difference in contamination -- or degrees of risk of contamination.
For example, a potato chip dropped on a clean table might not pick up many bacteria, but a jelly-side down piece of bread dropped on a dirty floor will pick up more bacteria and pose a greater risk.
"Maybe the dropped item only picks up 1,000 bacteria, but typically the amount of bacteria that is needed for most people to actually get infected, is 10,000 bacteria, then the odds are that no harm will occur," Parada said. "But what if you have a more sensitive system, or you pick up a bacteria with a lower infectious dose? Then, you are rolling the dice with your health or that of your loved one."
What about using your own mouth to "clean off" a dropped baby pacifier?
"That is double-dipping -- you are exposing yourself to bacteria and you are adding your own bacteria to that which contaminated the dropped item," Parada said. "No one is spared anything with that move."
When it comes to folklore, the 5-second rule should be replaced with "when in doubt, throw it out," Parada advised.
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