4 Moms talk about Germ Warfare

Germ warfare?  [glancing furtively about]

Ahem.  We fight germs in our house by…um…er…not getting sick.  And washing our hands!  Yes, washing our hands.

It’s probably time to come clean, so to speak.  When I was a kid and I got hurt, my dad’s response was always the same:  “Aw, spit on it and rub it in the dirt!”  And I did.  And I never had an infection in my life.

When my kids get hurt at his house he tells them the same thing, and if they’re small and gullible they follow his instructions.

Just in case you’re not following my train of thought, we’re not terribly concerned about eradicating germs in the home.  Instead, we aim for a strong and healthy immune system, achieved in part by regular exposure to the germ-laden world around us.  Our kids play in the dirt, pet animals, touch grocery cart handles, and – gasp – sometimes eat with unwashed hands.  I’m hoping against hope that at least one of the other moms will say something like that.  Please, y’all, don’t leave me high and dry here.  Somebody?  Anybody?

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  • We wash our hands after we use the bathroom or change a diaper, of course.  We clean our house, and especially the kitchen and bathroom.  But we don’t slather on the hand sanitizer every 10 minutes, and I’m not a big fan of antibacterial soaps in general.  I’ve heard too many stories about those substances breeding “superbugs.”

    We rarely get sick, and when we do it’s usually a 24 hour bug that catches half of us over the course of 6 weeks.  When somebody says we’ve been sick for 6 weeks it may sound bad, but I think those are pretty good numbers overall.  There’s a lot to be said for a well-exercised immune system.

    We share glasses, forks and finger foods freely unless there’s a bug going around.  We don’t think that cooties necessarily equal germs.

    If you really want to know the truth, we sometimes eat ice cream straight from the container, though we’re careful not to serve it to company after that.  In fact, I remember one particularly awkward evening when Perry tried to offer my personal ice cream stash to company and I stammered that no, we did not in fact have that particular flavor of ice cream – when he knew full well that we did – though we did have others (into which I had not dipped my germ laden spoon).

    I’ve matured over the years and now I would simply laugh and tell our company what I had been up to, and invite them to partake at their own risk.  Life is so much simpler now.

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    1. I laughed out loud at this one! I have gone back and forth over being a germophobe to not caring. I went through a phase where I was scared to go anywhere with the girls because we’d come in contact with germs. Sad. Now, well, we use regular soap, not antibacterial if I can help it, we wash hands after bathroom/diaper change and before eating; children take baths as needed, we do use hand sanitizer when out and about if possible though. My kids are in the dirt all the time, running barefooted (east texan here), getting sticker burrs in their feet, eating off the dirty floor…we’re fine. We trust in the Lord and act smartly, just not obsessively.

    2. You are definitely not alone! 🙂

    3. Hehe, we think alike on this subject. And to Homeschooling6 above, my MIL just about has kitten too. I try not to laugh at her 🙂

    4. I figure they’ll have a great immune system when they are older. My kiddos rarely get sick though. I let them play in rain, roll in the mud, climb trees and such, run barefoot it’s great! My MIL about dies though. Like today, for instance, it’s storming and my kiddos are having a blast outside. My dear MIL is trying to heard them in. LOL.

    5. Rachael in Australia says:

      Out of the 4 moms, I read your post last. Before I got to your site I was thinking “disinfecting door knobs, phones and light switches??? It’s never even crossed my mind to do so – what kind of slob am I?” Apparently a Kim C kind of slob (said with much affection and thankfulness!)

      We rarely, rarely get sick. We don’t get the vomitting bug going around and hardly ever have colds. I do wonder how much is attributable to the fact that I am hopeless at reminding the kids (I have 6) to wash their hands (except after a toilet session and then I’m relentless!) I’m the mum who makes her children pick up dropped food from the floor and finish eating it…maybe I should stop my confessions right there. Needless to say, I don’t even have a nodding acquaintance with anti-bacterial products.

    6. I actually had a woman gasp that I was letting my kids play in the local creek a few years back (when it was cleanish). She asked if I was scared that my kids would get ill. I looked at her and stated that we had played in that sort of stuff growing up and I could count on one hand the number of times I had ever been sick while growing up and as an adult. You could see a lightbulb go on in her head. She had forgotten that growing up we didn’t have all these antibacterial soaps and hand santizers and such and most of us faired pretty well.
      My kids eat dirt, play in dirt, partake in dropped food even outside if I am not looking.
      They are the healthiest kids in the town.

    7. I have a question for next week, if you are so inclined to answer (interpreted: pick me! pick me!)

      I have 3 girls, two are very close in size to each other, and one is very close in size to me. I struggle with sorting socks and unmentionables! Since you have more girls than I do, thought you may have some insight into keeping track of who’s whose of those items which the kids don’t want to share..

    8. Elizabeth says:

      I think our families would get along very well!
      I have two questions for you all for next week if you feel like answering.
      1. What do you do about internet rules filters etc for the kids?
      2.I know families are loud and our houses are loud but where is the line for too loud? I don’t expect our children to be silent in the house but sometimes.. Just curious if you have any rules about this?

    9. You share ice cream?! Whether my spoon was in it or not I would never share my ice cream. With anyone. It is mine. You can get your own. And when I say “get your own” I mean gallon…not bowl.

      Clearly I have issues with sharing.

    10. I read a study that farm kids are some of the healthiest kids *despite* (read because of) the fact that they are constantly around dirt, dung, animals etc. My goodness, I can’t imagine being so scared all the time about letting your kids do anything! We wash hands after the bathroom and sometimes before dinner, and I even vacuum and clean up occasionally 😉 My husband washes hands after touching cats but that’s only because otherwise his nose and eyes start streaming. Other than that, we play in the dirt, put our hands in stagnant ponds, catch wildlife, pet animals, and my one-year-old even chomps on the shopping cart without any trouble. We get occasional colds, and I’m a bit more careful with my daughter in winter as she can get ear infections, but no major problems here! he he he

    11. Sounds like your policy on germ warfare is nearly identical to mine…just can’t say that we’ve ever tried the “spit on it & rub it in the dirt” tactic ;).
      We are also blessed to very rarely have sickness of any kind. We, too, stay away from any antibacterial products & just allow our immune systems to do what they were created to do. It’s so nice not to live in fear of germs!

    12. Yup, put us in the non-hand sanitizer group. Except..I do sanitize the grocery cart handles. I’m not squeamish about dirt, bugs, food of the floor, etc. But I have seen people sneeze wetly into their hand and then put it on the cart… I don’t mind sharing germs with my kids but complete strangers… well…

      I did find it interesting, a few years ago I was listening to NPR (I’ll admit it) and there was a program on polio. They did say in that report that it WAS the kids from the super clean (and more affluent) households that usually came down with it, because of the weaker immune system thing. So we aren’t just making it up. 🙂

    13. Love the post and the comments! Two things, I work in a college with microbiologists and “they” tell me that antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer both do more harm than good by promoting the spread of resistant antibacteria; they recommend plain ole soap and water. Also, the near “epidemic” of autoimmune diseases has been blamed by some on the fact that our immune systems don’t have enough to do in our germophobic society, so they “turn on us”.

      My Dad used to say that everybody has to eat a peck of dirt sometime.

    14. Sounds like us! Build a strong immune system through reasonable exposure to germs, no antibacterial soap, lots of Vitamin D (especially during the dark winters up here in Alaska), and healthy eating.

      It didn’t take me very long to realize that it’s impossible to keep things (everything!) out of babies’ mouths. So our babies suck on rocks, chew on sticks, eat food off of the floor, and kiss the dog (though I am a little more particular about that one). I do draw the line at licking the bottoms of shoes, though. ;D

    15. We have the stomach virus going around as I type. It is the first time in about 4 years. Not bad considering a family of 6. We basically enjoy life and wash hands when we come home from an outing. We also spend upwards of 25 hours a month in therapy and doctor offices becuase of several of our childrens special needs, so you would think we would get everything but we don’t. Otherwise, I try to keep a mostly clean house and consider most germs my friends when it comes to building my kids immune systems. Even our doctor commented recently on how healthy we are.

    16. We’re big hand-washers….but that’s about it. Of course we try to keep things clean…but I agree…the more we try to get rid of the germs, the less likely we are to fight them off.

      Around here, we call it self-innoculation! lol

    17. I am another relaxed mom about the germ & dirt issue. I have 6 kids – 4 of whom on adults and gone now – but over the years I’ve noticed that my kids haven’t gotten sick all that much. We’ve had very little vomiting illnesses, mostly colds and sinus stuff when they do get sick. And I’ve also noticed that the friends who are super cautious about germs, etc., have kids that get sick more often. And I wonder” which came first ~ the cautiousness or the illnesses…

    18. Thankfully I’m not the only one to overlook light switches, door knobs, toy washing, or even washing hands before dinner. I used to spend hours on those things, but as the family has grown, I just couldn’t keep up with perfectionism. Oh well. My kids are free to enjoy the dirt or draw pictures on themselves, and just BE KIDS! I was raised in the antiseptic, don’t-touch-me…you-haven’t-washed-your-hands environment. Time to lighten up!

      Another thought – I notice hand sanitizer bottles all over the place in doctor’s offices, and my son wanted to use one, and all I could think of is the top of that bottle is the DIRTIEST place in the office!

    19. So refreshing to hear I’m not alone, what a relief! DH is a dr. and complains all the time about people wanting (read “demanding”) antibiotics and how resistant some strains are becoming. He’s still a bit on the sanitizer bandwagon, but I think I’m rubbing off on him! BTW, our kids are RARELY sick more than the sniffles or, as someone else said, overindulging! LOL

    20. My dad was (still is) very germaphobic, but luckily I didn’t inherit the trait to his extent! I wash my hands whenever they feel dirty, and try to keep a clean kitchen and bathroom and… you know… vacuum and dust once in a while. 😉 But I’m a big fan of re-wearing clothes, petting the kitties without feeling the impulse to sanitize afterwards, etc. Good to know I’m not falling down on my job and that other home-keepers are the same way!

    21. We have a motto in our house. My oldest two (6 and 4) sometimes will answer even faster than I do when I am asked why they are playing in the dirt or why they let the dog lick their face or hands… or why our littlest is eating grass 🙂

      The more concrete you lick the less you get sick.

      No I don’t actually let me children lick concrete but I don’t sanitize the grocery cart handles and I often catch my littlest one chewing on it. The more germs your body is used to the better off it can fight the bad ones 🙂

      Thanks! Glad to see I am not crazy nor alone!

      Momma to 3
      *Shay B*

    22. lois groat says:

      Yay! Finally someone besides me on the Germs Won’t Kill You team!!

    23. We are very much the same in the germ area. When we have company and it’s time to eat, the other parents will tell their kids to go wash their hands. I laugh to myself and say, “yep, kids, go wash your hands.” I don’t know why this is such a hard thing for me to remember. I’m good about reminding them to wash after they have been in the bathroom but that’s really the only time I enforce it. Oops 🙂 Oh, and we never wash stuff down. Toys, door nobs, light switches, nothing….ever. Scary isn’t it. I just got a picture of the walls and toys in a thick layer of goo! haha
      We all only get sick once a year with the flu which only ever last 3 days tops as it takes time for it to run through everyone in the house. But must of the time it’s only a day or so. Plus, we may all end up with the common cold. So maybe twice a year we deal with sick kids and we all get it at the same time, with some never getting sick ever. I feel bad for some people I know that always have a sickness running though their house. We definitely count our blessings in this area!
      Glad I’m not the only one that lets the germs get in. I love your “Well-exercised immune systems!”

    24. My philosophy is much like yours and we only get colds less than a handful of times a year. Six kids in 12 years and only two cases of vomiting and those the result of over indulgence.

      This reminded me of my favorite germ-related piece of literature. Sadly, I know people like this.

      Strictly Germ-proof by Arthur Guiterman

      The Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup
      Were playing in the garden when the Bunny gamboled up;
      They looked upon the Creature with a loathing undisguised;—
      It wasn’t Disinfected and it wasn’t Sterilized.

      They said it was a Microbe and a Hotbed of Disease;
      They steamed it in a vapor of a thousand-odd degrees;
      They froze it in a freezer that was cold as Banished Hope
      And washed it in permanganate with carbolated soap.

      In sulphurated hydrogen they steeped its wiggly ears;
      They trimmed its frisky whiskers with a pair of hard-boiled shears;
      They donned their rubber mittens and they took it by the hand
      And elected it a member of the Fumigated Band.

      There’s not a Micrococcus in the garden where they play;
      They bathe in pure iodoform a dozen times a day;
      And each imbibes his rations from a Hygienic Cup—
      The Bunny and the Baby and the Prophylactic Pup.

    25. This cracked me up! And you reminded me that I forgot to add in my post an incident at the park.

      My toddler began chewing on a stick she had picked up and another mother nearly came undone, waving her arms, and warning me of the “danger” of germs.

      I shocked that new mother by telling her “That’s what her white blood cells are for.”

    26. I am in the non antibacterial club myself!

      We don’t get sick very often, if we do it is minor cold/sinus stuff and the occasional tummy bug….

      Otherwise we are sickeningly healthy! Praise the Lord!

    27. I’m so glad you included that your kids are around animals : )

      When we used to sell animals I can’t tell you how often parents would have a panic attack over a child petting a hamster or holding a turtle. Hand Sanitizer would be flying everywhere.

      While its important to be careful with animals, especially reptiles, its been proven that chicken from the grocery store is the biggest cause of salmonella in households.

      Love the post, your house sounds a lot like mine–comfortable and relaxed : )

    28. Lisa in ND says:

      “Our kids play in the dirt, pet animals, touch grocery cart handles, and – gasp – sometimes eat with unwashed hands. I’m hoping against hope that at least one of the other moms will say something like that. Please, y’all, don’t leave me high and dry here. Somebody? Anybody?”

      I’ll say it. Of course we wash hands after going potty and diaper changing (though we are done with those now since youngest is 4), but we don’t obsess about germs. Never have.

      We also share food, spoons, cups, etc. (unless somebody is obviously sick).

      We don’t do flu shots.

      We even have the “5 second rule!” if a piece of food is dropped on the floor, although one of the dogs will usually get to it first.

      Our kids seem to get sick a lot LESS that the hand sanitizer obsessed people.

      Great post!!

      P.S. I would have had some of your ice cream. 🙂

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