What is really dirty?

(Note: dirty keyboard was Lysol-wiped multiple times in the typing of this article)

I’m home with a child who has strep (again ) with an added bonus of Flu B. We’ve sat in the urgent care or the Pediatrician’s office on five separate occasions in 6 weeks. Co-pays aside, have I become a living petri dish?

Kids, Bugs, and Germs…What is Really Dirty?

Winter brings Christmas, snow days, Valentines…and sickness. As a parent my  goals are simple: prevent the contraction of virus, the spread of the virus and the onset of infection at all costs.

We wash hands with soap and water, sneeze into our arms, not our hands, and don’t drink after each other. But what are my biggest threats when it comes to illness? When are our immune systems on high alert? Where are those tiny germs hiding? What is really dirty?

What is Really Dirty in Your House?  Where the Most Germs Hide

Tiny bacterium breed in places used most commonly and often not cleaned. As in, the phone you are holding right now. Think of all the times a day that your hands touch that phone. Before you eat, you wash your hands. But before you text? What is really dirty in your house is what you hold in your hand and use all day long. Disinfect it throughout the day.

Your children often grab your phone as well which makes it a leading culprit in the spreading of disease. Phones, keyboards, and doorknobs need to be disinfected at least daily to prevent the spread of sickness.

If you have a baby who uses a pacifier consider traveling with multiple and boiling them nightly. The movement from hand to pacifier can easily spread the virus, not to mention when it falls on the floor in Target. I used to “disinfect” by putting it in my mouth. This method combined with the Five-Second Rule was a winning combination, I thought. I was not right in so many ways.

dirty washing machine- breeding ground for germsKitchens, Bathrooms, Laundy, and Germs

Bathrooms, while definitely hosing their share of bacteria, are often not the really dirty places in homes because we are more likely to think of disinfecting those areas.

Kitchens in fact are far more dangerous in terms of germs and your kitchen sponge may be the dirtiest item in your home. Yes. Your teenager can feel triumphant. Many germs live happily on your dish-washing weapon. Be sure to run sponges through the dishwasher and replace them regularly.

But what is really dirty in your home might actually surprise you. It’s not the bathroom or the kitchen, but the inside of your washing machine. Washing machines are always wet, with warm water,  creating the prime environment for the bacterium to breed. Running a wash with just bleach through your machine once a month can reduce the spread of germs from even your clean laundry.

What is Really Dirty Outside?

When flu season is at its peak, I know to avoid the Chick-Fil-A Playplace, but what about playing outside? I’ve assumed perhaps, influenced by The Secret Garden that fresh air and a little dirt heal all ailments in young children.

While there are countless benefits to playing outside, it is helpful to be aware about what is really dirty some of the dangers to avoid health problems.

girl with praying mantis in natureWhich Bugs to Avoid

Many bugs are harmless and no child should grow up without the experience of a pet caterpillar. The bugs that pose a threat are West-Nile carrying mosquitos, ticks which can carry Lyme disease, Black Widow or Brown Recluse spiders whose bites can require medical care, and stings from bees or other insects if the person stung has an allergy.

Dirt is usually fine for playing in, and then washing off with soapy water, but you shouldn’t consume it. For years, statistics celebrating the pounds of dirt ingested over the range of a common childhood have been circulating. Inevitably, children are exposed and some dirt will end up in mouths, but avoid being careless.

The Dirty..on Dirt

What is really dirty about dirt? Various microbes and parasites thrive in dirt and can cause a range of symptoms and disease. Toxins and chemicals not meant for the human body can contaminate our soil. So, tell your child,  touch but don’t eat. And then, always, wash hands carefully with soap and warm water.

Avoiding viruses and infectious diseases can feel overwhelming. But remember, immune systems were made to fight off these threats. Just be aware of where and how most germs are spreading. Increase hygiene, use vaccines, and take simple steps for prevention. It could be a long winter, but it does not have to be a sick one. 

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Health & FoodNina Simone

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