Is it ok if I sit on the toilet seat?
You hover until your thighs burn. You line the seat with toilet paper. You perch on one cheek and hope for the best...
"Your chances of catching anything from a toilet seat - if you wash your hands afterwards - are close to zero," WH health expert, Dr Ginni Mansberg reassures us. First, there would need to be microbial load (use your imagination) on the seat. Also, "The skin on your bottom and thighs is very resilient; as long as you don't have any open sores, there's no risk of germs penetrating your skin," explains Dr Stuart Smith, a microbiologist from Deakin University. "But touching your bottom - or the seat, when it hasn't been cleaned - and not washing your hands before touching your nose, eyes or mouth could mean transmission of bugs." Gross.
So sit back and relax. But as you can't rely on a public loo's cleanliness, never forgo the hand washing after you're done. Case in point: in a 2009 study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, only 37 per cent of the 273 randomly selected public restrooms on 56 cruise ships were cleaned daily.
Oh, and put the seat down before you flush - in a public loo and at home. If you leave the seat up while you're flushing the toilet, tiny particles of bacteria spray everywhere. "It may not be enough to hurt you," says Dr Mansberg. "But that's why tests always find faecal matter on people's toothbrushes." Double gross.
Is it ok to eat after brushing my teeth?
Yes. In fact, it could be better, according to Dr Tony Goswell, Sydney dentist and Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons examiner.
"It's good for two reasons. Firstly, brushing your teeth removes dental plaque and the bacteria it contains, which means there's no bacteria to metabolise sugars in the food you eat to produce acids and dental decay. Secondly, brushing with a fluoride-containing toothpaste actually strengthens the tooth enamel and makes it more resistant to erosion by acidic foods or drinks."
As for brushing after lunch, don't bother. Brushing your gnashers twice a day is enough to keep dental plaque build-up under control, says Dr Goswell.
Is it ok if I wash my sheets only once a fortnight?
A quick straw poll of the Women's Health and Men's Health offices found that most of us wash our sheets about once a fortnight. According to Dr Mansberg, this is fine. "Bacteria need food, warmth and moisture to survive," she says. "So a sheet is not the best environment for a bug."
However, if you suffer from asthma, eczema or allergic rhinitis, you should wash your sheets once a week to nix dead skin, dust mites and their poo, which aggravate these conditions. "You should also run a vacuum cleaner over your mattress," Dr Mansberg says.
Despite what Mum might say, there's no need to wash sheets in hot water. And skip the tumble drier, too - direct sunlight is best for the planet (and your power bill).
Can I leave a tampon in for more than 8 hours?
Sort of. It's the size that counts, rather than the time. Why? The condition that gave you the heebie-jeebies when you were 15: toxic shock syndrome. "TSS is a bacterial infection that's most commonly caused by tampons - they can become a breeding hotspot for germs in your vagina," says WH health expert and GP Dr Ginni Mansberg.
Symptoms of TSS are a high fever, diarrhea, vomiting and muscle aches, followed by low blood pressure that can lead to shock. "It's fatal in five per cent of cases, and - although I've never seen a case - it seems to be related to how super-absorbent the tampon is, not just the amount of time it's in."
To safeguard against TSS, Dr Mansberg advises using tampons only on your heaviest days. And stick to the eight-hour rule. Night-time leakage? "Try using a pad at night and, for additional protection, lay a tampon between the labia longways instead of inserting it. That should cover most women for a decent sleep," says Dr Mansberg.
Can I sleep with my contacts in?
Yes - and no. Shirley Loh, from the Optometrists Association Australia, reckons wearing contacts to bed is like going to sleep without cleaning your teeth. "Most people would wake up with really bad breath; only the odd person would develop an oral infection," Loh says. "Likewise, corneal infections due to contact lenses are rare; it's more common to experience sore, dry eyes and blurry vision after sleeping with inappropriate lenses."
Not a disaster, but not exactly a Special K-type start to the day. If you'd sooner pluck a chicken than remove and clean your lenses every night before bed, ask your optometrist about switching to daily disposable lenses or continuous wear lenses, which allow enough oxygen to pass through to your eyes, suggests Loh. They're designed to stay on your peepers for up to a month without removal. Try Ciba Vision Night & Day, which let six times more oxygen through than dailies ($88 for a six-month supply).
Is it ok if I swallow pips?
If you're worried you'll get gut pain or give birth to a watermelon, you can unclench your legs: pips are harmless. Natoli says your body will treat pips as it does fibre. "They'll come out the other end - sometimes whole without any digestion occurring." Delightful.