February 28, 2024

Angela Onwuzoo 

A Consultant Dermatologist at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, Dr. Uche Ojinmah, says it is unhealthy to wear second-hand clothes unwashed, warning that such an unhygienic act could trigger rashes all over the skin. 

Ojinmah identified dermatitis, scabies and fungal diseases as some skin diseases that could be transmitted by wearing unwashed second-hand clothes.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Reportr Door Healthwise, the dermatologist who is also President of the Nigerian Medical Association, said that some preservatives are added to second-hand clothes that users might need to wash off before using them.

Ojinmah said, “The condition of the clothes also allows bacteria to develop because they are fabrics, therefore, there can be contamination.

“And if they stay in packaging or a store for a long time without being used, all those organisms like fungi and bacteria can get active. So, when a person buys it and wears it, the person will contract an infection.

“The issue may not be transmitting infection from the original owner or the former user of a cloth. You know that in packaging and long haul, some come in through ship, some come in through flight but they are now kept in a store which may be damped and cold.”

According to him, things like fungus can grow on second-hand clothes, advising that users of second-hand clothes should wash them first before using them.

“Another thing is this, some of the second-hand clothes are preserved with preservatives which is why they have a particular fragrance. That fragrance is a preservative. 

“There are some preservatives that are added to these clothes that you may need to wash off before using them. Some are being applied to make sure that they don’t allow the growth of fungus or bacteria or things that can eat into the clothes like cankerworms and lice that can digest and eat the clothes. 

“Those preservatives when you put them directly on your skin, especially some people that have an allergy that is called atopic, can trigger rashes all over their skin. Even in the basic law of hygiene, you know that it is not proper to take someone’s clothes and then wear them immediately.

“So wearing second-hand clothes without washing them should be discouraged greatly. They should wash it first before using it. People should practice proper hygiene,” he said.

Speaking further, the NMA boss said, “When you buy it, wash it, dry it, iron it, and then you can use it.”

In a 2021 article published in the Iranian Journal of Public Health titled “Second-Hand Clothe, a New Threat for Acquiring Parasitic Infection”, the authors said some people purchase and wear second-hand or vintage clothes due to economic problems. 

“This fact put their health at risk of some microbial infections including bacteria, fungi, parasitic and viral infections. 

“The prevalence of parasites and ectoparasites in the examined unwashed second-hand clothes is high. Second-hand clothes could spread skin and hair diseases, particularly pediculosis and scabies.

“In addition, these clothes must be washed, ironed, or disinfected to diminish the chances of pathogen transmission to humans,” the authors said.

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