5 Scary Ways You Didn't Know You Could Get an STD

A tanning bed? REALLY?!

Extreme closeup of a woman's eyes, wide with shock.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Every day there's—and we're just ball parking here—roughly 523 things you need to worry about. Getting run over by a bus to your left? Stop texting and keep your eyes on the road. Easy. Meeting an impending deadline for [insert obscene task from your boss]? Just tell them your gerbil died—works every time. (Kidding.) Catching an STD? Abstain for sex...buuuut not really.

In this awesome world we live in, it's actually possible to transmit an STD without having sex. Great! (Again, kidding). No need to freak out just yet AKA run to the drugstore for 30 containers of hand sanitizer—it's extremely rare to catch something like herpes without having intercourse or oral sex. Besides, it's not like an STD will magically manifest into existence: Someone *has* to give it to you, which can be through unconventional manners.

So think of this as merely an FYI. In the very least you can gab about this at your next family reunion. Or not.

1. Lip Balm

First, you need to remember that there are two types of herpes: herpes simplex type 1 (oral) and herpes simplex type 2 (genital), both of which can be spread via direct contact. Also, it's not easy for STDs to exist on inanimate objects—so you can breathe again. But if someone applies balm to their lips near an infected area, meaning you can visibly see symptoms like a cold sore, and you use it, too, *very* soon after...fill in the blank. And on a gross note: Even if a person isn't experiencing a flareup, they can still spread the virus, says women's health expert Jennifer Wider, MD. It's just less likely. This also goes for things like lipstick and cigarettes (not that you smoke, MMHMMM?)  Lesson: Always, always, always carry your own stick, ball, or whatever moisture-distributing vessel you use.

2. Moist Towels

"Sexually transmitted diseases are both viruses and bacteria, so they can live in environments that make them thrive," says Wider. And what better place to call home than a warm, wet towel? Ugh. Have you ever heard of trichomoniasis? Doubtful—even though it's one of the most common STDs, and masquerades as a vaginal infection with a funky-smelling discharge. On top of that, it can live on things—like towels—longer. So please, do yourself a favor and BYOT (bring your own towel) whenever you need one.

3. Tanning Beds

You'd think that all that heat and UV exposure would kill off any lingering infections, but no. We're particularly talking about HPV, which is usually spread through skin-to-skin contact. "Wait, I have HPV and wear my bikini bottoms when I tan, so everyone's safe, right?" Wrong. HPV can show up on different parts of your body like your fingers, and we're 99.97% sure you aren't wearing gloves in those tubes. Then there's molluscum contagiosum—a virus that causes small, round bumps with craters to appear on your skin—which could be contracted from a tanning bed. Technically, this isn't an STD, though it can be spread sexually. Nope, nope, nope.

4. Razors

As tempting as it might be to borrow your roommate's razor for a quick swipe when you can't find yours , STOP. When you're shaving, you're opening up the skin with little nicks and scratches which are basically open doors for an STD to enter your body. If you need a clearer picture, know that any direct contact with blood (possibly left on the razor from the infected person) can give you a virus or disease like Hepatitis B. Cute.

5. Used Sex Toys

Okay. You're probably not sharing your Rabbit with a total random (unless you're into sex parties such as swinging), but before you even think about handing off your vibrator to another person, clean and sterilize it before/after every use. Reasons being 1) it's been in the *single* place you'd expect to transfer STDs and 2) even if it's just been idly chilling under your bed, sex toys can pick up other bacteria and germs that you definitely don't want down there. 

Kenny Thapoung

When I'm not stalking future-but-never-going-to-happen husbands on Facebook, you can catch me eating at one of NYC's B-rated or below dining establishments—A-rated restaurants are for basics. Fun fact: Bloody Marys got me into eating celery on the regular. And for your safety, please do not disturb before 10 a.m. or coffee, whichever comes first.