A headline caught my eye the other day which was to the effect that “children are too clean and not in contact with enough germs any more
Moms are bombarded with advertising about sanitizing everything to such an extent that perhaps we have gone too far in the quest for cleanliness and a germ-free environment. Children do need to build up their own resistance to germs and they will never do so if they are not exposed to them in the first place. And many of those products used by moms to keep everything clean and germ-free are actually full of synthetic chemicals and artificial fragrances which can cause health problems and allergies in our children.
So there is a fine line between being not fussy enough and being overly fussy
You can teach your young child about germs and healthy habits early on so that you are protecting them from illness as well as building lifelong habits. But you should not make them so wary of germs that they will no longer dig in the garden or the sand, no longer pat the pets and no longer just experiment. That is how they learn to become inventive and innovative. If we stifle children too much, there could well be no scientists and inventors in the future.
It is said that the baby boomers growing up in the freedom of the 1950s and 1960s were the most innovative of any generation.
What are germs?
Germs are “micro-organisms” or living things that are too small to see with the naked eye. Fortunately, most micro-organisms are harmless but some can make us ill. These are the ones we tend to call germs. A germ can be bacteria, a virus, a fungi or a parasite. When certain bacteria get into your food and proper cooking does not destroy them, they can give you a stomach upset. Some viruses will give you a cold or the flu. Certain fungi will give you a skin infection. Some parasites can cause diarrhea.
How to combat germs
As germs can be found almost anywhere, the important thing is to encourage your children to wash their hands after going to the toilet, before and after helping in the kitchen, before and after eating and of course if their hands just look downright dirty. The rest of the time, just leave well alone. Warm water, soap lathered up and used for some 30 seconds and a clean towel for drying are the best equipment for the hand washing sessions. Keep the bottle of sanitizer or a packet of wipes for emergencies only. As the sanitizer is alcohol based and could be ingested by smaller children’s skin, rub it on to your hands first for absorption before transferring to your young child. It is very drying to the skin too.
As far as flu and cold germs are concerned, teach your child to sneeze into the sleeve or the crook of his or her arm as covering their mouth with their hands just helps to spread those germs to other children when they touch toys, chairs, books, door handles etc. Build up your child’s resistance and immune system with a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, lots of exercise and a daily dose of vitamin D (with daily sunlight if possible or a supplement of vitamin D3 in the winter months). Don’t be tempted to go for flu vaccines which are unproven and can do a lot more harm than good.
Let your child enjoy the outdoors to “blow the cobwebs (and germs) away”
The one area in the house that it is wise to keep as clean as possible is of course the toilet. And try to use an eco-friendly product as these are less hazardous to the touch and won’t poison the rivers and oceans. We all need to think about the environment so that we leave our children a less polluted earth to inherit. It is extra important to keep the toilet clean because this area can be especially fascinating for young children. Clean under the sea and lid as well as all the visible surfaces regularly because these are where splashes can cause the biggest build up of germs. Wipe the handle each time it is used.
Good luck with keeping your child reasonably but not excessively germ-free!