The banana-condom demos clearly aren’t cut¬ting it. According to a 2012 Kinsey Institute review, men tend to make one of two con¬dom mistakes: they either forget to leave space for their semen to collect at the con¬dom’s tip, or if they do leave a lit¬tle room in their rubber, they fail to squeeze out the air. Both of these boners can increase your risk of breakage. So what’s the proper technique for gloving up? “To leave space and remove the air, use your thumb and forefinger to squeeze the tip as you’re rolling the condom down all the way to the base of your penis,” says study author Dr Robin Milhausen.
2 Battling Back Pain
MISTAKE: Vegging out on the couch
Lounging in front of the TV for all eight seasons of House won’t cure a bad back. “Lying down for a pro¬longed period of time is one of the worst things you can do for lower back pain,” says Dr Carmen Pichard-Encina, an assistant professor of ortho¬pedics at Johns Hopkins. “It increases stiffness in the muscles of your back. Over time, inactivity can also cause those muscles to weaken, making them even more prone to injury and pain.” This doesn’t mean you should exercise as normal, though. Opt for low-impact activities, such as walking or swim¬ming, which target muscle stiffness without jolting your joints, says Dr Pichard-Encina. That said, if even these activities are unbearable or if the pain doesn’t let up in five to seven days, schedule a doctor’s appointment.
3 Drying Your Hands
MISTAKE: Skipping the paper towels
Anyone who says electric hand dry¬ers are more sani¬tary than paper towels is full of hot air. Rubbing your mitts under a tradi¬tional dryer can boost the number of bacteria on the surface of your skin by up to 45%, a recent study in the Journal of Applied Microbiol¬ogy found. “Most dryers draw in air from the bathroom and then can expel any airborne con-taminants directly onto your hands,” says University of Westminster microbiologist Keith Redway. Another problem: rubbing your hands together can stir up bacteria in your pores so they rise to the surface of your skin. Your best bet is still the paper route, which reduces microbe levels on your palms by nearly 60%. Don’t worry about paper waste: many facili-ties now use biodegradable towels made from recy¬cled paper.
4 Trying To Make A Baby
MISTAKE: Using regular lubricant
You love the idea of having sex like clockwork. But for your wife, having to hook up whenever she’s ovulating – horny or not – can make her wish your Big Ben would break. “Three out of four women report increased vaginal dryness when they’re trying to conceive,” says Dr Ashok Agarwal, director of research at the Cleveland Clinic’s centre for repro¬ductive medicine. Unfortunately, a lube may alter the pH of her vagina and act like a spermicide, he warns. Try get hold of some fertility lubricant (Conceive Plus is available to order, 021 510 0455/6), or stick to it sex au naturale to increase your chances of conceiving.
5 Cleaning A Wound
MISTAKE: Using hydrogen peroxide
Bleach is a powerful disinfectant, but you don’t pour the stuff on a cut, right? And yet many of us reach for a bleach called hydrogen peroxide, not realising that while it’s murder on germs, our skin also suffers. “It reduces the number of fibroblasts, a type of cell that’s crucial for cleaning and repairing damaged tissue,” says Dr David Bar-Or, director of trauma research at the Swedish Medical Center in Colorado and the author of a study on the perils of peroxide. Just clean the wound with soap and water and apply a petrolatum-based cream (such as Vaseline). Then cover it with an adhesive bandage. The petrolatum creates a moist environment, which promotes the healing of minor wounds, according to researchers in Germany.
6 Applying Sunscreen
MISTAKE: Washing your hands afterwards
This is one time you don’t want to wash your hands. If you rinse your paws after slathering on sunscreen, you leave a crucial surface exposed to harmful UV rays. “I frequently see accelerated aging on the hands because people forget to apply sunscreen there,” says Northwestern University der¬matologist Dr Amy Derick. Apply about as much sunscreen to your hands as you would if you were moisturising with lotion – and don’t forget your nails. Yes, they’re dead cells, but the tis¬sue underneath is active and suscep¬tible to melanoma and other skin cancers, the Skin Cancer Founda¬tion warns.
7 Sitting On The Toilet
MISTAKE: Keeping knees level with hips
Even if you’re a fan of fibre, you can still find your¬self straining on the toilet. Most commodes are now “comfort height,” which means your knees are level with your hips. This puts a crook in your rectal canal, interfering with the smooth tran¬sit of your turds. “In the natural squatting posture, with your butt below your knees, the rectal angle is straighter, mini¬mising straining,” says Dr Dov Sikirov, the author of an Israeli study on the topic. To help straighten your canal, try placing a 10-centrimetre footstool under your feet. In Dr Sikirov’s study, people who did this strained less than when they sat normally on a toilet.
8 Flossing Your Teeth
MISTAKE: Flossing before and not after brushing
In your mind’s eye you can picture the floss dislodging food particles, which brushing can then sweep away. Except for one thing: the ben¬efits of flossing have less to do with freeing the lettuce wedged between your teeth than clearing the debris you can’t see – in your mind’s eye or the mirror. “Floss¬ing is better able to remove the micro¬scopic debris between your teeth after you’ve brushed off larger particles that were in the way,” says Manhattan dentist Jennifer Jablow. After brush¬ing, spit out the excess toothpaste, but hold off on your final rinse until you’ve fin¬ished flossing. Doing this can help transfer the tooth¬paste’s fluoride into the crevices between your teeth, maximising its germ-fighting action, says dentist Kenneth Young.
9 Sanitising Your Counters
MISTAKE: Assuming that all cleaners disinfect
That blue stuff you spray on your windows may be great on glass, but it’s a dud as a disinfectant. Scan the label before you buy: cleaners should contain active ingredients to be true germ killers. “If you use a cleaner that’s not a disinfectant, you run the risk of not killing bacteria, spreading microbes, and contaminating more surfaces,” says University of Arizona microbiologist Dr Charles Gerba. Once you start cleaning, step away after you spray. “It takes 30 to 90 seconds for a disinfectant to kill germs, so let it sit before wiping off,” Gerba says.
10 Cleaning Contact Lenses
MISTAKE: Topping off your solution
If you never changed your car’s oil and only topped it off, do you know what you’d end up with? An engine full of dirty oil. Well, you’re prac¬ticing the same poor mainte¬nance with your contacts. In a University of Texas study, 90% of people thought using fresh solution meant simply adding a few drops to what was already in the lens case. The harm? Leftover solution is sapped of its disinfecting power, which the USFDA says can raise your risk of vision-damaging infections. Your move: clean, rinse and air dry the case each time you remove your lenses from it. Then refill with fresh solution.
11 Taking A Shower
MISTAKE : Taking a shower every day
Unless you punch the clock in a sewer pipe, you’re probably overdoing it. “The outermost layer of skin is essential for locking in moisture,” says Dr Derick. Frequent showers with serious scrubbing can remove the layer’s oils and lipids, which help fend off dryness. Shower every day if you need to – just keep the water lukewarm and your time to 10 minutes or less, Dr Derick says. Afterward, skip the vigorous towel-dry routine, which can also dry your skin. Instead, gently blot your body with a soft towel and smear on some good quality mois¬turising cream, that contains skin-fortifying fatty acids, says Dr. Derick.
Eleven ways you may be sabotaging your health – when you think you’re saving it
Some tasks in life are so mind-numbingly simple that you don’t even think twice about them. You’re essentially on autopilot, feet up in the cockpit, content in the knowledge that you’d have to try to screw these things up.
Or would you? What if you’ve actually been botching things you thought you had mastered long ago? Take flossing: couldn’t be easier, right? You’re probably doing it wrong. And if you aren’t, well, then we’ll bet you don’t know how to dry your hands. Or apply sunscreen. Or slip on a condom. Yes, we mean stuff that simple.
The point is not to make you feel stupid but to help you do something smart. In other words, we want to help you take hold of the controls before you crash. “Making small corrections to the things you’re already doing can have a major impact on your overall health,” says Dr Ted Epperly, the Men’s Health family medicine advisor. Now about that condom…