How Gross is It? Your Germiest Situations Analyzed

I came across this article on and wanted to highlight some of the germiest situations that they analyzed.

Since I work in an outpatient clinic where kids/parents/siblings/therapy dogs come and go throughout the day, we tend to be extra careful about germs and infection control in the clinic so we don’t have a run of cancellations from sick patients from something they could have caught in the clinic.

I have always wondered exactly how bad some situations could be for kids, so with that, here are some highlights from the article.

** What you’ll learn from this blog post:

  • please clean a pacifier well if it falls on the floor
  • wipe down a restaurant high chair before having your child use it
  • no sitting and playing in sandboxes!
  • dogs’ licks aren’t so bad 🙂
  • hand washing is always important!

How gross is it…when the pacifier drops on the floor and I clean it with my own mouth?

Experts say: “That’s absolutely disgusting,” says Shu. “Not only do you have possible germs in your mouth that you can pass to your child, but why is it okay for you to be licking the germs from the floor off the pacifier?” Plus, adds Shu, “adults have more of the bacteria in their mouth that cause cavities and you don’t want to introduce those bacteria to your baby’s mouth.”

When it matters: Every time. When your child’s pacifier drops on the floor, it needs to be cleaned.

How to handle it: Rinse it in water, using soap and some friction to remove the germs. Be sure to have back-up pacis on hand in case you’re not near a sink. No matter how often the binky hits the floor, Gerba recommends sending it for a spin in the dishwasher every day or two.

** I have a number of parents who have done this in the clinic if their child’s pacifier falls on the floor, so now I have appropriate advice to give them other than saying, “you can wash that in our kitchen :).”

How gross is it…when my kids lick or eat food directly off the restaurant high chair?

Experts say: Pretty gross. “We’ve done studies on those, and they are one of the germier things you run across,” says Gerba. “They don’t get disinfected and get used multiple times. We’ve even found E. coli on them.”

When it matters: Pretty much any time you eat in a restaurant.

How to handle it: “I always wipe it down with disinfecting wipes for my grandchildren,” says Gerba, who recommends Clorox wipes for maximum germ eradication (just let the surface dry before you pop your kid in). Travel with a pack in your purse or diaper bag.

** We make sure to clean our high chairs between Occupational therapy feeding sessions!

How gross is it…when my kids play in the sandbox?

Experts say: It’s potentially as gross as building a sandcastle out of kitty litter — used kitty litter.

When it matters: When sandboxes are left open. “Animals poop in them,” says Gerba, “and they tend to harbor parasites over time.” Those parasites can develop into pinworms if they penetrate your child’s skin.

How to handle it: If you have a sandbox at home, it needs to be covered whenever it’s not in use. “I would keep kids out of public ones,” says Gerba, but we know this just isn’t doable with some sand-loving kids. Post-dig, make sure you wash their hands well, and give them a good bath later.

**Whenever I do PT treatments at a park setting, I only use sand as a tool to improve my patient’s static and dynamic standing balance and try not to let them sit at all in the sandbox 🙂

How gross is it…if you don’t enforce the hand-washing rule before meals.

Experts say: “That’s not a good idea,” says Gerba diplomatically, adding “when kids come in from outside, they have a high incidence of fecal bacteria on their hands.”

When it matters: When kids come back in from outside and touch their eyes, nose, or mouth, which is how bacteria and viruses are transmitted.

How to handle it: You and your children should wash your hands before and after making meals, when you come in from outside, and when they look dirty. You should wash well with soap and water, long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. For help with that, see ourmom-tested tricks to get kiddie hands clean.

**Hand washing is just as important in an outpatient setting as it is in a hospital!

How gross is it…when the dog licks my baby’s face?

Experts say: “The dirtiest mouth — and the one you are most likely to catch an infection from — is a human mouth,” says Glode. There is a small chance that a dog could transmit the bacteria campylobacter to the child, which can cause diarrhea, but it’s not likely, adds Gerba.

When it matters: Dog kisses are not freakout-worthy, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch your babe around Fido. “I’m more worried about a dog’s bite than a lick,” says Glode who recommends keeping babies away from dogs unless you can supervise closely. You run a risk “if the baby pokes the dog or the dog is unknown to her.”

How to handle it: To be safe, “you definitely want to wipe the kid’s face off,” says Gerba, who recommends a baby wipe or paper towel. “But that’s about the best you can do.”

** I try not to let, Bear, my therapy dog, lick anyones face or their hands, just to be safe!

To see additional germ insights from this article, read more here:


Categories: Humor in pediatrics, News Articles

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