Finding Balance in a Germ Phobic World

med22-germs.jpg image by GambitWeekly

I won’t let my kids hold the handrails on escalators.

I’m pretty sure more children have gotten hurt rather than sick from escalators, but this is one of the last vestiges of my germ phobia that I can’t give up. I have three daughters. With the birth of each child I became less strict and less paranoid regarding “infectious diseases” and how they could catch them.  I don’t know if there’s a connection, but my youngest, who was exposed to the most germs of the three, has actually been the healthiest, usually avoiding whatever is “going around”.

There has been a theory called  the hygiene hypothesis floating around for a couple of decades, and it continues to be studied and reported. The theory holds that children exposed to germs and allergens early in life have a better immune system as adults. Children with pets, for example, are less likely to grow up allergic to pets. Those of us who make a pit stop at every anti-bacterial dispenser (I was a bit guilty of that during the swine flu scare) don’t quote that theory often, and no one has actually proven or disproven “the hygiene hyposthesis” conclusively.

There’s plenty of proof  however, that there are public places where you can come into contact with some seriously dangerous bacteria (like staph.)  An article from nursingschools.net actually inspired this post.  It’s called 7 Surprising Things You Should Never Ever Share. And it has some surprisingly ‘blech’ inducing information, indeed. The article claims that:

“Computer keyboards and computer mice may harbor more germs THAN YOUR TOILET…”

I just sent an email – Quick, pass the Purell!

And what about cellphones? In one study, half of the cellphones tested came up with staph.  The heat from the cellphone evidently creates a kind of incubator. (And you thought that cellphones only created brain tumors…) And those make-up testers at department store counters?  Scientists found a soup of E-coli, staph and strep.

I’m not going back to the pathological behavior I displayed as a new mother.  I would race my first toddler for her pacifier should it accidentally fall from her lips, desperately washing it before she could stick it back in her mouth.  By the time I got to child number three, I would simply go about my business as my baby continually dropped and picked up her beloved “pluggie” all by herself. My husband and I got a huge kick out of a science project that was presented by one of our kids’ classmates a couple of years ago. It tried to prove that the ‘5-second’ rule was a good one. (That’s the rule which states that  if food falls on the ground, it may be safely eaten as long as it is picked up within five seconds.) In researching this idea further, I’ve concluded that the ‘5-second’ rule is simply a convenient way for tired mommies to avoid washing pacifiers (can you see me raising my guilty hand?)

Not convinced? Read this.

Although I’m no longer chasing after finger chewing toddlers, I do keep certain rules, just to play it safe, like staying away from banisters.  We hold hands instead.  And then we wash them when we get home.