For most women living in America today, it’s not practical to leave the house without some type of purse or handbag. Retail sales of women’s handbags in the US amounted to $8.3 billion in 2015, proving that women of all ages have been conditioned to want, need, and purchase purses and use them regularly. Whether you’re off to work, running errands, or going out for dinner and drinks, it’s usually assumed that you’ll be carrying around your cell phone, wallet, cosmetics, medications, office supplies, and just about anything a person could ever need in a given day.
But there’s definitely a dark side to these desirable accessories. Although most women rarely question their reliance on purses, the reality is that purses might actually be causing a lot of harm. That’s particularly true if you haven’t cleaned out your handbag in quite some time or you’re prone to lugging around your entire life in your tote. For the sake of your own health and well-being, you might want to consider the harm that handbags can cause.
Heavy purses can lead to injury
Women may not even question whether they need a purse; many have merely accepted that it’s part of their lot in life. Because studies have officially confirmed that women’s jeans pockets aren’t even large enough to accommodate a smartphone, most women have no other option but to store their electronics, their money, their identification, their keys, and any other items they frequently require in a separate compartment altogether.
But all too often, women feel pressure to carry around everything but the kitchen sink in their shoulder bags. That’s a real problem, according to neck and spine specialists. When your bag is too heavy, this causes your shoulders and neck to roll forward and puts pressure on your back and your entire body. In the short term, this can lead to pain and soreness. Over time, it can lead to numbness, herniated disks, carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle spasms, tension headaches, rotator cuff injuries, and tendinitis.
Experts recommend that your purse weigh less than 5 pounds, ideally. Others say that your handbag’s weight should represent no more than 10 percent of your own. While carrying a bag on each side can alleviate the possibility of uneven weight distribution, it’s often better to work on lightening your load. You might even purposely switch to a purse that holds less so that you aren’t tempted to pack in more. (It could actually be a good thing that fanny packs are back in style.)
And if you’re in a situation that doesn’t require a conventional purse — like a trip to the gym or a quick errand — try to switch to a lighter alternative. A wristlet or a phone pouch can be a great solution that will give your body a break. That way, you won’t be forced to provide everything to everyone in any situation, nor will you be part of the 60 to 80 percent of Americans who experience back pain at some point during their lives.
Messy handbags can make you ill
Physical injury may sound like enough of a risk to swear off heavy purses forever, but it’s not merely the 15-pound purses that can do serious damage. Even smaller handbags can be hazardous, particularly if they haven’t been cleaned properly.
News story investigations and scientific studies alike have found that purses are incredibly dirty. Research from the United Kingdom revealed that the average handbag contains more bacteria than a toilet, while about one-third of purses analyzed actually had fecal matter on them. Even worse, the most likely bacteria to dwell on your purse include E.coli and staph, both of which can cause serious infections. If you’ve ever set your purse down on the floor of a public bathroom or on your local bus, it’s not hard to wonder how your bag became so disgusting.
Essentially, the germs found on purses can cause everything from colds and viruses to skin diseases and pathogens that cause truly unpleasant digestive symptoms. And while you might dismiss these concerns, citing the fact that you never touch the bottom of your bag, consider the fact that you do hold it close to your body and that you can easily transmit those germs from location to location. Even if you don’t feel the unfortunate effects, you could be unknowingly passing on those germs to others. And if you carry around a wallet, dirty tissues, loose change, or other items inside your purse, your chances of getting sick are even higher.
Experts suggest that you should clean off the exterior of your purse daily with a moist cloth or disposable towel. You should also make sure to clean out the inside of your purse on a regular basis and ensure that its contents are hygienic. For example, tissue packages should be kept securely closed, loose food particles should be removed, and interiors should be vacuumed (and sanitized when possible). You may even want to splurge on a more expensive bag, because materials such as leather and suede won’t attract as much bacteria as cotton and wool fabrics will.
Of course, you should also make sure to practice good hygiene habits. Wash your hands frequently and refrain from ever putting your purse on the floor. If you can keep your purse out of bathrooms altogether, that’s even better. But if you can’t, always make use of the handy hook on the door and keep it off the counter while you fix your makeup.
These tips might not completely alleviate your purse woes, but they certainly will help you to prioritize your own health. If we can’t get rid of handbags completely, at least we can make the burden easier to bear.