10Yr Old Step Daughter Is Afraid of Germs. Looking for Suggestions

Updated on April 13, 2008
A.C. asks from Salem, OR
10 answers

My 10 yr old step daughter has been acting weird lately, not wanting to touch anything, washing her hand every 5-10 mintues,(we go through a bottle of hand soap a week). She has an allergic reaction to soap, so her hands are all dry, cracked and have a rash from washing so much and using the hand sanitizer.

She also is questioning everything she eats to find out what it is for example (an ice cream cone, she wanted to know what was the stuff that stuck the paper to the cone) she ate everything but that piece of glue. Her mom look her to couseling, and the counsler said it sounds like "OCD".

We have tried telling her it not helping her rash to wash her hands that much, she just gets upset. Any suggestions.

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answers from Seattle on

I think there was good advice in all the replies.

I am also afraid of/hategerms(funny my house is a mess lol) and talked to someone about it, and they said I have a mild case of OCD. It doesn't help me that I also have the same dry skin you mentioned your dtep-daughter has, and I constantly have to use lotion(I have used EVERYTHING there is). I am so thankful I found this stuff at Walmart called Body Essence antibacterial hand lotion. It's alcohol free(all hand sanitizers have alcohol which dries the skin--as do most lotions...makes dry skin and rashes worse!) yet still antibacterial, so it kills the germs. I replaced the Germ-X I carry in my purse with this. Bad thing is at Walmart, I can only find it in travel size on some of the registers. Worth a try for her, though, or look at a health supplements store. Here in WA we have Super Supplements. I'm sure they have something alcohol-free that's antibacterial.

Aside from all that, my first thought when I read your request was like Angela thought that maybe she just learned about germs in school? If so, I'd wait a bit, get her off the alcohol sanitizer and away from the antibacterial soaps, and into something without it(regular soaps are actually recommended instead of the a/b ones), and if she doesn't stop soon, get her some help for OCD.

Good luck to her and you!

K. W

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Hello A.,
Washing hands every five to ten minutes as you wrote in your request is extreme. A counselor already told her mom that "It sounds like OCD".
If this is in fact OCD the best idea is to educate yourself about the problem.
In the meantime...remove hand sanitizer from the house completely. Most are made with alchohol which is making the problem much worse. There are antibacterial lotions on the market. Can you get her to follow up her hand washing with lotion? There are also mild soaps and non-allergenic soaps.
All the Best,
"The typical OCD sufferer performs tasks (or compulsions) to seek relief from obsession-related anxiety. To others, these tasks may appear odd and unnecessary. But for the sufferer, such tasks can feel critically important, and must be performed in particular ways to ward off dire consequences and to stop the stress from building up. Examples of these tasks are repeatedly checking that one's parked car has been locked before leaving it, turning lights on and off a set number of times before exiting a room, or repeatedly washing hands at regular intervals throughout the day"

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Has she just learned about germs and bacteria in school? If she did, maybe she just can't stand the idea of "bugs" living on her hands or being on her food. It also could be just a phase. I had a cousin who went through similar sounding phases (with no counseling needed) about washing her face, and another about brushing her teeth (like every hour!). She grew out of it and perhaps your stepdaughter will too. Also, maybe there's a type of soap that would allow her to keep her hands clean that won't cause the allergic reaction...? I would let her know that it's not necessary to wash everything off of her hands (maybe mention the good germs?) but you can really gain her trust by letting her know that if she feels like she has to, to use this special soap so her hands don't get so sore. She is probably going through a tough time herself adjusting to things... I'd just let her know you're there for her and allow her time to get through it. And pray for her :) Couldn't hurt!



answers from Boise on

Wes use cetaphil instead of soap becaus of my sons eczema, you might try that to help. Also my little brother has/had ocd's and when he close to that age he went through the same thing. My mom explained to him that the anti bacterial soap only needed to be used after going to the bathroom or before eating etc. because it killed off the germs for a certain amount of time. This reall helped him to be able to not need to wash all the time because he 'knew' that the germs were still being destroyed even if he didn't wash.



answers from Terre Haute on

It could very well be OCD, my hubby has it. You should have her talk to someone who specializes in it, there are also programs out there to help her cope with it, learning how to not do what she is doing. I'm fanatical about washing my hands too, I use vaseline on my hands when they crack and it always works. In the meantime, you should find her somesensitve skin soap, so it doesn't dry her skin out as bad. Good luck! K.



answers from Portland on

I also suggest the possibility that your step-daughter has an emotional disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have a friend whose 5 yo granddaughter developed these sort of symptoms. She needed medical intervention to overcome it.

I think Angela's advice is good if her symptoms had just started and had not become so severe.

OCD behavior cannot be changed usuing methods used with children having minor difficulties. She is showing physical damage to her health as a result of her actions. You need professional advice and she needs professional care.

Asking what is in foods is normal and in fact a good way to learn. My 7yo granddaughter asked what held the paper to the cone. I replied that it had to be edible and was probably a sugary substance. Now she rips the paper off and licks the "glue."

My granddaughter has dry skin and eczema. She doesn't like the greasy feel of the cream the doctor prescribed and she has put up a fuss, especially when small, but she will put it on after we insist that she needs to do it for the sake of her health.

She loves playing in soapy water. When her hands get dry she asks for lotion, or gets it herself, because she says the soap made her hands all dry. A couple of weeks ago she told me I needed some lotion when my hands were just a little bit scratchy on her skin.

She is sometimes rebellious and throws a fit especially if someone else has told her she needs to do such and such. But the usual behavior is one of co-operation even after an initial refusal.



answers from Seattle on

It does sound like OCD. You should take her to someone who specializes in OCD right away. I think you should also stop talking to her about using the soap too much. If it's OCD, it's a compulsion in her brain. She can't help it. Don't buy any more hand sanitizer and make certain you have a very gentle and moisturizing soap. Give her the option of wearing thin cotton gloves - this might help control her anxiety.

But get her in to see a specialist. There are some really effective medications that will help her get more in control of her compulsions!



answers from Yakima on

I am no expert at OCD. But this is my two cents about some ideas to help put it into perspective for her. You can walk her through the fact that we can't live without little bacteria, mites, etc. In and on our skin, in our digestive tract especially. It is of vital importance that we maintain the "right" germs to combat the bad ones. Washing with antibacterial soap isn't helpful in two ways. One- studies have shown that they are no more affective than regular soaps to wash away dirt and germs. Two- you need a natural layer of oils to protect your skin. To protect her skin better from the inside, and it also helps mental function btw, get her some fish oil (seattle super supliments is a good source). They can also help explain the use of probiotics to her too.

Here's another thought. It sounds like there is quite a bit going on in the family. Being the oldest has some very unique stresses. Could it be that she doesn't feel comfortable asking for more help/attention in her life and this is one way she is subconsciously asking for it?



answers from Seattle on

I wouldn't be so quick to label her with OCD. Is there some stressful things going on in your family right now that would be causing her anxiety? I can remember going through a phase exactly like that. I think I was around 10 as well. I was very much a worrier as a child. There were a lot of stressful things going on in our family, and I think I used the hand washing as a way to feel in control about something. Eventually I grew out of it and do not have that issue anymore. I would definitely take it as a sign that she is dealing with some anxiety. Try to find out what's really bothering her......I doubt it has anything to do with the germs. Having her talk with a counselor on a regular basis might be a really good thing.


answers from Seattle on

Have you tried purell? It is actually more effective then hand soap in some situations. Antibacterial soap can get rid of needed oils and what not the purell doesnt do that. The other thing is..she has probably come to realize how germs are spread and thinks it is gross. I personally am a germaphob (?). I think it is sick we cant touch anything without the prospect of getting ill. You need to explain to her though at her age it is good for her to get sick. That she needs to build an immune system so when she is older she can go to work without using all her isck days in the first month. I think it is natural for kids to go throught this. mine didnt start until i started working in retail where there was alot of kids around and there was a bunch of us working close together. I dont think that conuseling is really worth it. She is just going through a phase and will eventually learn to either work with the fear of germs and learn how to protect herslef or she will grow out of it all together.

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