Even before I had a child I would have considered myself a germaphobe; washing my hands dozens of times a day, never going anywhere without hand sanitizer or Wet-Ones; I avoid eating with my hands, always flush public toilets with my shoe, and I’m afraid I may be turning my son into a germaphobe, too.
Sadly, there is no escaping germs. “Anywhere people gather is filled with bacteria and viruses, and a crowded shopping mall is a perfect example,” says Philip Tierno, PhD, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center. Keep reading for the worst germ hot spots for you and your kid.
1. The playground. Ew. Ew. Ew. Yes, triple ew. Playgrounds are prime breeding grounds for all sorts of illnesses because everyoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s kids (including our own!) put their grimy hands on everything. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also no rule about not coming to the playground if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re sick, so chances are thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s some nasty stuff lurking on the monkey bars or the swing set handles.
The worst place at the playground? The sandbox, because according to experts, animals can poop in there and give your child parasites. So either keep your child away, or be sure to give them a good bath once you get home.
2. Public restrooms. If you have ever tried to change your toddler or infant on a public changing table in a public bathroom, chances are you haven’t ever wiped down the changing table with an antibacterial wipe after you’re done.
Case in point: a changing table in a coffee shop in Denver. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve gotta use Ã¢â‚¬Ëœem, try putting a disposable liner down first, like the Chux they use in the hospital. Then discard all trash when you’re done.
3. The doctorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office. Ironically, your kid can actually get sick from your doctorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office because kids who are there for sick visits are wiping their noses with their hands and then playing with the train table or books and puzzles in the waiting room.
Some doctorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s offices are diligent about cleaning their waiting room toys or books, and some have separate sick or well waiting areas, but some do not. Always encourage your child to wash his hands once you get into the examining room.
4. The supermarket. Because of the sheer volume of people frequenting your local grocery store every day, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s loaded with nasty germs on all sorts of surfaces, from the floor to the shopping carts, to the buttons on the credit card machine at the checkout line.
If your toddlerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like mine, the first thing heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll do when you put him in that cart is start gnawing on the cart handle, which horrifyingly harbors all sorts of nasty bacteria (including E. coli). So wipe down the cart handle before you put your little one in (some supermarkets now give out wipes right by the shopping carts). Then, donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let him out of the cart if you can help it, and keep him busy with a toy from home while youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re signing the signature pad at the checkout counter.
If all else fails, use some of that hand sanitizer as soon as you get to your car. Or better yet, leave your child at home.
5. Public water fountain. Experts have found that the drinking fountain in some schools actually had more germs than the toilet seat. And one Oregon studentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s science experiment found that the water coming from his schoolÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s toilets was cleaner than the water at the fountain. Gross!!
Amidst all the muck, there is some good news; turns out there are two places that are a lot cleaner than you think:
1. Bathroom toilets. The toilet seat is actually one on the cleanliest things in a public restroom. Why? About 48 percent of Americans cover it with paper covers before using it.
2. Santa’s lap. The plush fabrics of Santa’s suit and gloves don’t retain or transfer germs nearly as efficiently as hard surfaces. Plus, children who sit here are fully clothed, providing another layer of protection. The one who might end up sick is Santa himself, if a child coughs in his face.
At any rate, don’t leave home without your hand sanitizer! Ever.
Photo credit: dabruins07