Bacterial conjunctivitis and library books
February 5, 2014 11:13 AM   Subscribe

I have bacterial conjunctivitis. I've been on antibiotics for 24 hours. Unfortunately before I was diagnosed I checked out a bunch of library books. When can I safely return them and what can I do to make them less full of contagious nasties?

So I have about 20 library books here that I've been actively reading on a daily basis. My eye started bothering me on Sunday during the Super Bowl but I thought it was an allergic reaction in something I ate, and then on Monday I ate leftovers. It got worse, but not due to flax ninjas. Doctor visit yesterday found bacterial conjunctivitis. In the meantime, I've been going to work without knowing that I've been spreading yuck. I'll be back to work on Monday and am busily cleaning the house and washing everything ever but in the meantime I have this giant stack of library books that is presumably full of yucky contagious eye goop. I have to take them back by the 14th. What do I do!?
posted by Electric Elf to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
According to this study, books aren't a carrier for bacteria. You could wipe them down with a Clorox wipe, but by the time another person checks out the books, your bacteria have died and been replaced by dozens of others.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:19 AM on February 5, 2014

I'm thinking they'll be long dead. But feel free to spray the bejesus out of them with some Lysol.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:20 AM on February 5, 2014

To maximize the amount of time between you last touching them and another person touching them you can always drop them off after the library closes so there is a good ten hours before someone touches them.
posted by saucysault at 11:33 AM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Bacteria aren't immortal and they need food (e.g. your eye) in order to survive and to reproduce. As long as you aren't wiping your eyes on the books and you're washing your hands frequently, I wouldn't worry about it. Maybe put all the books you've already read somewhere where you won't touch them until the 14th to give the bugs extra dying time.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:40 AM on February 5, 2014

Really, just wash your hands. Even the CDC basically says you only need to wash the things that have been in contact with your face.
posted by jessamyn at 12:26 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Librarian answer: PLEASE DO NOT SPRAY OR WIPE YOUR BOOKS WITH ANY LIQUIDS OR POWDERS. Any liquid at all, even one that evaporates quickly, is water-free, or seems more like a powder, can damage books. Additionally, a book that reeks of any fragrance can be considered damaged. Your library may charge you the cost of the books plus a hefty service fee, when you were only trying to help!

I am convinced by the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology abstract linked by Ideefixe above. Just return the books. (And if you want to read the full article, ask for it at your library!)
posted by gillyflower at 1:20 PM on February 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

Gilly, does that include rubbing alcohol used only on the protective plastic cover? I've been doing that for years and considered it a public service since I routinely check out books that are covered with a film of dirt and sometimes even traces of food.
posted by any major dude at 3:55 PM on February 5, 2014

Wipe them down with antibacterial wipes, but be careful not to ruin any of the pages with them. I would squeeze the wipes, wringing them out over your sink before using them on the books. It's great that you're conscious of this and care about it. Respect
posted by OneHermit at 10:22 PM on February 5, 2014

Don't spray them with anything, especially not Lysol. Other library patrons may unknowingly transfer the chemicals to their mouths or other parts of their face and bodies. This is a bad idea for everyone, and especially so for children or people with chemical sensitivities.

I think it's best if you don't try to clean them at all. Trust me, you're not the only person who has ever been sick and then returned library books.
posted by i feel possessed at 4:17 AM on February 6, 2014

Any Major Dude: Yes, I'm including rubbing alcohol on the dust jacket cover. Never know when you might spill on the paper itself. Library staff should be the ones to clean library books. I do this at my library (and there's a special non-liquid, unscented cleaner for it). If you find books on the shelf too dirty, ask a staff member to clean them before you check them out, or lodge a complaint.
posted by gillyflower at 10:33 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just decided to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer on me (not the books) before reading them.
posted by Electric Elf at 12:25 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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