Let’s start by stating the obvious: Kids are gross.
From babies with their spit-up and nonstop pooping to teenage boys and their stinky-ass pubescent hormones (and everything in between), kids are just kind of…well, nasty. Cute and adorable and the loves of our lives, yes. But also disgusting little petri dishes of germs and other filth.
It seems that parents generally fall into one of two camps: the parents who want to cover their family in a Hazmat bubble of protection, and those of us who pretend that things aren’t as disgusting as they actually are. If we can’t see it, it isn’t there, right?
I generally fall in to the latter camp. I adhere to the five-second rule, and I firmly believe that a good childhood includes a lot of dirt. Even though I’m far from a germaphobe, sometimes the dirt and grime our kids bring into our homes is enough to induce anyone’s gag reflex. I’m all for letting my kids be exposed to germs here and there (got to build up immunity somehow), but there’s a fine line between healthy nonchalance and signing your kid up for a bout with the dreaded stomach flu.
So I try to take a few precautions. I remind my kids to wash their hands (even though they usually ignore me). I keep a reasonably clean house (with the help of a really kick-ass cleaning lady, I might add), and I buy Lysol disinfecting wipes in bulk.
Turns out, however, that we parents might be wasting our time when it comes to cleanliness. We’ve been worrying about germs and filth in the wrong places. Researchers with A Secure Life recently took a look at various household areas and common children’s products to find out just how nasty they really are — and the results are somewhat surprising.
Strollers are downright filthy.
Most people think of things like cell phones and remote controls as the germiest household objects, but when it comes to kids, strollers are actually the worst. Researchers found that since most people store their strollers in the garage, they are exposed to more temperature and humidity changes than other places in the house, which can create the ideal breeding ground for germs and other nastiness like bacteria, yeast, and mold. Garages also house dust, exhaust fumes, and germ-carrying pests like rats and mice adding to the filth. Yuck.
Other top offenders for germs include sippy cups, pacifiers, plush toys like stuffed animals, and the diaper bag.
The bedroom is worse than the bathroom.
Most people think the bathroom is the grossest place in the house (with all boys, let me tell you, this would have been my bet), but the bedroom is actually exposed to the most germs.
Pets don’t add to the germ count.
While Fido might seem like a disgusting creature, taking the blame for most household nastiness, it turns out that those homes with pets weren’t significantly worse than households without pets.
Preschoolers are little petri dishes of germs and nastiness.
Not only are threenagers devils in disguise, but they are also pretty darn dirty. Even though babies are literally sitting in their own pee and poop sometimes, they are actually the least germy children. Toddlers, with their sticky fingers and penchant for putting anything and everything in their mouth, are exposed to more germs, with their beloved pacis being the worst offenders.
But toddlers aren’t nearly as germy as preschoolers, who take the cake when it comes to germ exposure.
Boys really are dirtier.
But not by much. Of the homes tested, 44% had more boys than girls, but accounted for 51% of the overall germs.
We might be going overboard with the chemical disinfectants.
As it turns out, all those disinfecting wipes that I buy by the truckload might be a waste of money, and they can be creating an environment ripe for “superbugs,” or antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Ahhh!
“I think a lot of parents can go overboard with anti-bacterial wipes, anti-bacterial soaps and alcohol-based hand sanitizers in their fight against germs,” Krystal Rogers-Nelson, community content specialist for A Secure Life, told Scary Mommy. “Although we found a lot of funky germs in our research, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you or your child will get sick from them. And remember, some germs are not harmful or can even be helpful.”
Instead of freaking out about germs, or ignoring the problem entirely (which is my preferred method), she recommends parents use a little something called common sense. Parents can boil items children put in their mouths, disinfect obviously germy places like the bathroom and changing table, and sanitize extra-germy items with disinfectant wipes or eco-friendly sanitizers on a regular schedule. For everyday cleaning, however, household items like vinegar, lemon juice, borax, and baking soda can be used to reduce your family’s exposure to harmful chemicals and help prevent creating breeding grounds for germs.
And it turns out the best way to keep those pesky germs away is by washing hands with good ol’ fashioned soap and water.
Now if I could just get my kids to remember to put the toilet seat down too…