I’m not a germaphobe. Seriously, I’m not. I gladly allowed my kids to play in the sandbox at the play ground with a little hand sanitizer and hand washing as post-sandbox requirements. Now, of course, as I begin this post trying to prove that I’m not such a helicopter parent that my kids can’t enjoy the simple things that we all enjoyed in our younger years, my research instead shows me that my kids will need to commit their sandbox days to fond memories because they are DISGUSTING. So much for that.
This post isn’t about the olden days of sandbox creations. This is about everyday germy things that we should give credence to if we want to avoid unnecessary risk or harm. Here are 5 disease spreading and potentially harmful items that we should all know about and avoid. Just call me Ms. Jackson, ’cause it’s about to get NASTY in 5, 4, 3, 2… 1. (I know I mixed two Janet songs, but just roll with the nostalgia, will you?)
- Shoes In The House: I love my Huffington Post. They summarize some of the concerns surrounding wearing your shoes inside our homes. Bacteria are tracked from everywhere right into your personal spaces if you don’t leave those shoes at the door. Toxins from lawn care etc, and just general dirt can also travel in with those trendy, or not-so-trendy foot protectors. Would you step right into a strangers hocked loogie and walk that right into your dining room? The same disgust-itude resides on your shoes whether you see the yellow slimy loogie or not. Especially if you have small children around, they can pick up something off of the floor and put it in their mouth faster than you can catch them, sometimes. Leave those hush puppies by the door.
- Neck Ties and Other Unwashed Articles of Clothing: The data on neck ties comes from doctor research, which means if your doctor’s tie swings uncomfortably close to your face, dodge that bad boy like a guillotine. I can’t help but think the same facts could apply, to a lesser degree, to any person wearing an item of clothing that doesn’t get washed. The American Journal of Infectious Disease studied and found uncomfortable and statistically significant amounts and types of bacteria on doctor ties compared with shirts that were washed every 2 days or more frequently. The results support the need for further research on unwashable clothing of hospital staff. Take home message: Put it on, go to work, don’t touch it, get home, take it off, hang it up, wash your hands.
- Toilets Without Lids: So the obvious truth about toilets being dirty stands. Did you know, though, that flushing a toilet without a lid spreads the germy madness like turning on a blender without the top? Sure large chunks of smoothy don’t go flying from your toilet, but small aerosolized and microscopic jazz goes everywhere. Studies have demonstrated that toilet-originating bacteria can make it to your sink and even distant tooth brushes. I hear you non-believers saying: Well why haven’t we all died yet? Our immune systems are working hard, you naysayer you. But who wants to test the waters. I dare you to go put your hand in your toilet and flick that water onto your sink and bath towel. No? No takers? Then put that lid down and do better. Or if you are in public with no choice, flush and run like Ding Dong Ditch.
- Kitchen sinks: A source of many marital arguments between my husband and I, I have taken years to come to grips with the uncomfortable truth that the kitchen sink can be just as if not more bacteria ridden than the toilet. We’re talking big gun bacteria like E. Coli and Salmonella. It’s not just the sink either. Cutting boards, dish rags and sponges, and even the bottom shelves and drawers of the fridge can harbor dangerous levels or virulent (disease causing) bacteria. Solution: Alcohol or Clorox wipe everything, organize the refrigerator with raw meats separate from fresh foods. Start small with not mixing dish rags used for the sink with those for the counter tops. Foodandwine.com has more details and solutions. Child safety sidebar: Lock away cleaning products that are in arms reach of any little people. A second of distraction can cause a lifetime of irreparable damage for a child who eats or drinks a cleaning product. I like these that I bought from Amazon.com. They aren’t paying me for that recommendation, b.t.w.
- Phones, Keyboards and Pretty Much All Electronics: Sticking with the neck tie theme of things that aren’t washed often, or at all, our phones can hold so much bacteria, it’s sickening (pun intended). E. Coli, MRSA and plenty of other totally dangerous bacteria are commonly found on these devices that we hold constantly. We want to sanitize these electonics at home or work, but we’re worried about messing up screens and function. 70% Isopropyl Alcohol wipes (or spray on a towel) are the solution. Most electronics, including cell phone screens, will be safe with exposure to these wipes, but the bacteria will be deader than dead. Not eating or cooking while touching our phones, and not using phones in the bathroom are also safer phone practices to minimize the transmission of bacteria. I’ll bet you won’t leave that phone next to the toilet with the open-lid flush now either.
My concerns for chemical exposure and antibiotic resistance still make me recommend natural cleaning products over antibacterial soaps and body washes for our own cleanliness. I don’t expect, nor do I need to be personally bacteria free. The things around me don’t need to add to my natural bacterial abundance, though. I do not need bacterial donations from unwelcome sources. Check out my previous posts about natural household cleaning and safer skin care products.
I was in college when the movie Osmosis Jones came out, but thanks to On Demand, and my kids’ love for science, I was able to watch this cartoon classic recently. Bill Murray’s character eats a hard boiled egg off of the floor of a monkey cage and all HELL breaks loose in his body. We don’t have to eat or do things nearly as icky in order to put ourselves at risk. Let’s be a little more careful. We want this world full of evolving bacteria and antibiotic resistance to be a little less likely to hit us with something we’ll regret or could have prevented.
Dr. Wendy Goodall McDonald is a board certified OBGYN. She began practicing medicine in 2007 and now uses her extensive knowledge and growing following to increase health awareness in a fun and viral way. She is the founder of The Gyneco-blogic and an author of numerous books for adult and childhood health education and social growth. For more, check me, I mean her out at dreverywoman.com