Germs are everywhere, and when it comes to raising kids, any responsible parent seeks to eliminate or greatly reduce the chances of their child getting sick. Despite the efforts of most parents, there are some unsuspecting ways that a child can manage to come down with an infection. Surprisingly, the ways that many kids can come down with a virus or contagious bacteria is thanks to interaction with seemingly harmless everyday items.
Thanks to inventions like hand sanitizers, formulated wipes with germ-killing agents, and washing items often with hot water and soap, children are getting sick less often. It is also good to allow kids to have moderate interaction with less-than-perfectly clean spaces, so as to encourage a healthy immune system. However, there are certain things in the average home that may not be receiving the cleaning attention needed to prevent malicious germs from lurking about.
Being more aware of hidden dangers that can become a hazard to a child, and even older kid’s and adult’s health, within the family home is important. Coming up with a regular schedule of routine cleaning, maintenance, and removal of items which can become a breeding ground for bacteria helps alleviate future problems. Getting sick happens, but prevention can reduce future harm.
17 The Bath Towel
Although family members may be the only ones sharing their germs among one another, when using a bathroom towel hanging around, there are other unseen risks as well. Micro-spray from the toilet containing bacteria and contaminants can quickly set up home and breed in the innocent looking towel. Towels typically enjoy a lot of time being moist, between being used after a bath or shower, or simply washing hands when needed. Towels should be washed regularly, and definitely get a dose of high heat in a dryer to kill off nasty unwanted bacteria. Towels that are moist for too long can definitely start to smell if they develop mildew. All it takes is enough exposure before a child may find themselves with the stomach flu or congestion.
16 The Car Seat
The car seat rarely, ever gets cleaned. Crumbs from snacks might get hurriedly brushed off, juice box spills set in stains, and sticky pieces of candy get lodged into crevices. Since car seats often stay in cars for long periods, the enclosed environment gives bacteria and germs time to breed like crazy. It is nearly impossible to safely drive and monitor a young child that has found something worthy of sticking into their mouth that has been uncovered from the depths of the car seat. The car seat is a necessary safety item for young children traveling by car. But a car seat that never gets a routine check-up and cleaning may be giving kids a gift that keeps on giving. A dirty car seat can give the words ‘car-sick’ another meaning altogether.
15 The Baby Pool
The public pool and even private pool can put a little one at risk of getting sick. If the levels of chlorine or other cleaning agents are not high enough, germs can proliferate like they are living in a mega-sized petri dish. When the levels of sanitizing agents in a pool are off, it can lead to irritation of the skin and eyes, making a child more susceptible to getting sick too. The best solution is to shower before and after getting into the pool, and to change clothes right away. Enjoying a dip in the pool shouldn’t lead to a trip to the pharmacist or hospital, provided parents and kids think safety and cleanliness first. Open wounds should never be exposed to pool water, period.
14 The Ball Pit At A Fast Food Joint
Jumping into a sea of colorful plastic balls and swimming around has been a pastime for many kids growing up. Various children’s play centers, some fast food restaurants, and birthday parties have featured this type of entertainment for children. The problem? Those plastic balls never see any soap and water or disinfectant, and are crawling with microscopic critters. Workers who interact with the ball pit have found soiled diapers, missing socks, shoes, bubblegum, and more. If those balls never get a good washing, and germs and bacteria are left to fester, what sensible parent would risk their kid getting sick for a few minutes of innocent playtime? Adventurous parents should beware and be forewarned; make kids wash their hands after interacting with the seemingly harmless pit of bacteria, I mean, balls.
13 The Shopping Cart
Thankfully, many grocery stores have installed wipes for shopping convenience, to wipe down shopping cart handles. The front part of the shopping cart, where parents can slip their children in while hunting for groceries, can be a pathway to picking up some germs while strolling down Aisle 6. Parents should monitor their children if they choose to put them in a shopping cart, as all it takes is a couple of licks on the handle, or putting fingers in the mouth to transfer some free samples of bacteria. The seat of the shopping cart for tots can have germs lurking around as well, thanks to seepage from raw foods, unknown spills, and other unforeseen grossness. Shopping carts get handled by many people throughout their use, and often end up outside on occasion, with little cleaning.
12 What's In The Bathtub?
Rubber duckies are great, and so are pool noodles, floating plastic blocks, and sponges. These things bring children joy and much bath time fun. They also bring tons of germs! Yes, kids have immune systems, and some dirt doesn’t hurt. However, it is vital that parents regularly squeeze out water from toys, allow them to air dry completely, and check for the breeding of black mold. Kids love to play with their water toys, and enjoy learning about colors, numbers, and the physics of water. But, with fun toys comes the responsibility to maintain and clean them routinely. Water left in plastic or porous objects make for a great home for lurking bacteria. Germs can easily transfer into a child when a toy gets put in their mouth.
11 The Sandbox
Especially in urban environments, or areas where stray cats have their run of a town, the sandbox can quickly become a no-play zone for kids. Unfortunately, cats are particular about disposing of their waste, and a sandbox for children’s playtime can look more like the largest kitty litter box in the world. Children need to be especially careful around sandboxes, and kitty litter boxes, as cats have toxins and parasites in their waste which can be harmful to a child’s health. Going to the beach or to sand dunes at a nature park may prove to be a better place for children to enjoy sand. No matter what, being aware, observant, and taking preventative measures can help keep a child healthier and safer.
10 STOP! Don't Wash Your Hands
Children love exploring. Children especially enjoy interacting with buttons and knobs that quickly respond to their touch. Faucet handles on bathroom sinks and kitchen sinks get touched often, and do not get cleaned enough. Since faucet handles see a lot of water and hands, the transfer and proliferation of bacteria and viruses can run rampant. It might seem a bit weird for some, but it is a good idea to avoid touching faucet handles directly, especially after washing hands, handling raw foods, or going to the bathroom. Little people love to put their fingers and hands in their mouth, and on their eyes, so practicing good techniques can prove helpful. Keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer in a pump bottle near a sink might be a good idea, too.
9 On A Highchair Eating Leftovers
Frugality and being conscious about food waste is not a bad thing. In fact, being mindful enough to make use of leftovers can teach kids much about conservation and the value of food. It is important to consider the types of food that are reserved as leftovers, as some foods can more quickly grow levels of bacteria and viruses that can cause food-borne illness. Making sure that foods reach a safe temperature for a long enough time, in order to reduce the chance of a toddler or the rest of the family developing the stomach flu is a must. Certain foods, if left in the fridge or out on the counter for too long, should be disposed of, rather than taking the risk of eating later.
8 The Dirty Binkie
Pacifiers have been used to soothe babies and small tots for years. It is indeed a miracle invention for babies and parents looking for a moment of quiet. Pacifiers help little ones deal with irritated gums, practice self-soothing, and are a welcome distraction. However, pacifiers can be teeming with germs, especially if they are not changed or cleaned often. Pacifiers that hit the ground while outside the house, might get cleaned off by mom or dad taking one for the team, before passing back to baby. Pacifiers need to be changed when they have outworn their welcome, or boiled frequently in hot water to sterilize them between uses. Since most pacifiers are made with porous materials that can be scratched, microbes can linger and develop in nicks and small spaces if left uncleaned.
7 The Toilet
It should seem like a common sense thing, but the toilet bowl is not the only area of the toilet swimming with germs. Parents need to be concerned about cleaning off the flusher, keeping the lid closed, and not letting a little one enjoy freely putting their tiny fingers or mouth on the commode. Toilets often unintentionally emit micro-spray into the air, typically laden with fecal matter, bacteria, and other nasty things. Things that are left out in the open often can unknowingly be contaminated with the micro-spray given off by the toilet in a bathroom. Example: that toothbrush of yours that is way too close to the toilet every time you flush. Monitoring a small child while he or she is in the bathroom is best. Children can risk contracting an illness from playing with or mishandling the toilet, or even drowning if left unsupervised.
6 Anywhere The Family Pet Is
Children and animals are like peas and carrots, an expected and dynamic combination of growing up. However, as lovely as pets can be, interaction with an animal can bring on the germs. Wet sloppy kisses from dogs, exposure to fecal matter from cats, and even handling small rodents and birds can pass on bacteria, viruses, and parasites to children. Frequent hand washing, and routine maintenance and cleaning of a pet’s environment can help alleviate issues. Although, anytime an animal friend is in the household, and especially if they frequently go outdoors, the risk of them bringing more germs onto furniture surfaces, in beds, and on human’s hands and faces increases. Sharing food with pets can also increase risk of germ transfer, especially if dishes and utensils are not cleaned well.
5 The Remote Control
The television remote control is a nifty device, allowing those who tap its buttons to easily change channels, peruse the TV guide, and even watch more than one show at the same time. Although the TV remote is beloved by many a couch potato, and is great at shutting the kids up for a moment during family time, it is teeming with germs. Remote controls don’t often see a regular wipe down, so when a child puts the remote in their mouth as a makeshift teether, or the older kids are having a tug-of-war with the remote, there are creepy crawlies along for the ride. Caregivers should be on the lookout for remotes that could use wiping down with sanitizer, or seek to remove debris from around the keys. Bonus: no more stuck mute button!
4 Dirty Daycare
Many working parents utilize daycare services to supervise their children regularly. Although many centers do their best, the criteria for caregiver certifications, and how often a place is routinely cleaned can be sketchy. Children naturally love to pick up things, put things in their mouth, and share toys, clothes, and germs.
If kids are dropped off at daycare while sick or still getting over something, a children can easily pass on germs and bacteria to one another, or leave bodily fluids on surfaces of tables and chairs. Practicing good hand washing, teaching children to be cautious about physical closeness, and avoiding sending the kids of to daycare when still under the weather can help reduce the chances of getting sick. Sadly, despite best intentions daycares are still breeding grounds for lots of germs and illnesses.
3 Pre-Washed Foods
Although some companies have offered foods as ready-to-eat and pre-washed, parents should take some precautions to wash fruits and veggies, no matter how they are labeled, before eating. Many fruits and vegetables, organic or not, may be coated in food-grade waxes, pesticides, or have picked up various contaminants during processing and packaging. It is better to err on the side of caution, and especially make sure that certain fruits and vegetables in question are scrubbed, rinsed with hot water and produce soap before consumption. In some instances, it may be best to peel a fruit or vegetable before serving, and even after being washed. Unwashed raw foods can be a breeding ground for bacteria and harmful contaminants that can make kids sick.
2 Opening The Door?
It seems that around sometime during the toddler years, children get obsessed about doors. They love to open doors, close doors, hide behind and then jump out and surprise people around doors. That pesky doorknob gets a lot of hand action, and can risk transferring germs to a small child faster than the bacteria express.
Practicing regular hand washing, and learning not to put fingers and hands in mouths or eyes, can help alleviate the risk of transferring bacteria and viruses. However, choosing to wipe off door knobs occasionally with germicidal wipes, or at least some hot water and soap now and then, can’t hurt. Children should not be encouraged or allowed to put their mouths on door knobs for extended periods of time, no matter how awesome they think they taste or feel.
1 Mom's Cellphone
Cell phones are great aren’t they? In addition to being able to call or text family or friends in an instant, there are these wonderful apps which can distract a kid or adult for hours. Unfortunately, cell phones fall onto floors, get placed on counters, put into pockets, purses, and handled often. Cell phones do not regularly get wiped down with disinfectant.
Cell phones that don’t get cleaned, that often end up in dark environments, and often pick up various invisible-to-the-naked-eye microbes can make kids sick. Washing hands after using a cell phone is a good practice. Also, too much screen time can make kids and adults feel a little sick or out-of-sorts, so it is good to give drying eyes a break from the cell now and then.