Problem with Germs

Updated on June 05, 2008
J.J. asks from Round Lake, IL
30 answers

I've always had an issue with germs since I can remember. But it has gotten severly worse since having my kids (2 years and 3 months). It's to the point were I avoid any places where I feel there will be a lot of germs. And unfortunately for my kids...it tends to be places where there are a lot of kids. I avoid going on play dates, going to others homes, or any type of play facility i.e. Chucky Cheese. I know it is so unfair for my children...but it's a sickness. I just can't get past it. Any advice or suggestions?

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A.M.

answers from Chicago on

I would find a psychiatrist or psychologist and work it out with a professional. This is a well known aversion and so professionals have lots of tools to deal with it.

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C.D.

answers from Chicago on

I always keep hand sanitizer with me and the anti-bacterial wipes as well. Those are nice to give the kids and myself a wipe down after an especially germy visit to the playground or zoo.
Good luck!

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M.

answers from Chicago on

I have the same issues with germs. I have gotten better at letting my kids do things I won't (like swim in a public pool). I try not to think about is while it's happening. I totally understand though. I would like to walk around in a bubble if I could. I am sick just thinking about it.

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D.S.

answers from Chicago on

I completely understand your concerns, but I think avoiding any contact with other people and children and places that cater to kids is a little extreme. My sister-in-law did the same with her kids, and when the kids started school, they got every virus and every sickness that went through their classes, because they had never been exposed to anything and their immune systems were very weak as a result.

Germs are a part of life, but we try to minimize the number of germs that come into our home. When we come home from school, Mcdonald's, Chucky Cheese, the park, wherever, my son knows to immediately change out of his clothing and wash his hands. The clothes go straight into the laundry, and my son is as clean as he can be. We also carry anti-bacterial wipes and sanitizers in the car, so we wipe his hands before he eats at any of these places or before getting in the car after playing somewhere. I also wipe down toys fairly consistently, with vinegar and water.

Hope this helps. You AND your kids shouldn't hide from the world.

2 moms found this helpful
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J.R.

answers from Chicago on

J J,

I was told that my germ phobia was directly related to my post partum time (there is in fact 'post partum OCD') because with every kid it has gotten progressively worse and it seems to be at it's highest right after baby is born, then will settle a bit, but it has typically coincided with the start of my meds for post partum depression and anxiety.

I too will avoid places where the germs flourish - the very idea of letting the kids play at a McDonalds play land sends me reeling. I end up washing my hands so often that they end up raw and splitting open from dryness. My hands look like they are about 80 years old. On top of that though, I would count steps, and if i got to the bottom and found i miscounted, I had to go back up and do it again until i got the satisfactory 13 - which meant i counted them all. I needed to line up the bottles on the drying rack and correspond the nipples with their matching bottle in the relative spot - I wouldn't let my husband wash bottles because he did it 'wrong'...if he did them anyway, I had to rearrange them so they matched up right.

I think at this point you can admit that your obsession with germs is interrupting your daily life, and it's at that point that you can seek the advise of a pro. Without intense therapy you will need medication (I am very happy with mine) so I recommend going to a psychiatrist as they can write you a prescription. during times when I don't take my meds (like during pregnancy) the severity waxes and wanes but it's always there... I have to make an effort to block it out. That being said... I will never let my kids play at a Chuck E. Cheese or McDonalds Playland... I just can't do it. We compromise and they play at the park or facilities that I have deemed 'clean', but i need to inspect it first. They get the whole drill about germs, washing hands, not picking nose and (YUCK) eating boogers, not sharing drinks, and most importantly washing their hands before eating ANYTHING.

1 mom found this helpful
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W.P.

answers from Chicago on

I know there are alot of "germaphobes" out there but if you are that extreme I think you need to seek professional help. You are going to make your kids live's miserable. Also, is everyone aware of the fact that all the use of antibiotics and associated products actually increases your risk of immunity to it, thus making it a real issue is you come down with something serious?
We are inundated with negative information from the media about this stuff which feeds everyone's paranoia. I don't send my kids to school sick either but you can not necessarily keep your child home for a whole course of antibiotics which can last for weeks! Nor should you, they are no longer infectious past the fever stage.
Your kids need to go through the "normal" kid stuff which includes getting dirty and sometimes catching stuff in order to build up immunity to disease and to have a regular life-not grow up to be a Felix Unger. (remember the Odd Couple?)

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K.C.

answers from Chicago on

Hi JJ,

Everyone has their quirks but anytime something you do or feel stands in the way of having a normal, productive life for yourself or your family then it's no longer a quirk but something clinical that needs to be evaulated and treated. I would recommend that you go see a professional therapist to help you work through this phobia. It's definitely not healthy for your kids or for you to avoid these places.

If you want to try working it out on your own below are my suggestions. I'm pretty germ concious myself and I've found that implementing these suggestions has helped me to keep my kids pretty healthy. Also, visit http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/germs/ID00002 this is an article by the mayo clinic describing what germs are and what they do. Don't read this if you think it would freak you out more but if your anything like me, the more I know about something and understand something the less afraid of it I am.

1. Teach your kids to sing the ABC song everytime they wash their hands. I do this in my head everytime I wash. That's how long your should wash. I also teach my kids to wash between their fingers, on top of their hands and to wash their thumbs.

2.Hand washing immediately after toilet time and before eating.

3. I always use a towel to turn faucets off and to open doors when in public restrooms.

4. When helping my 3 year old use a public potty I insist that she lean forward and hold my legs instead of holding the sides of the seat. This one really gets me.

5. Keep hand sanitizer and a small package of lysol wipes in your car, bag, purse, etc. Use them on anything you want. If you want to wipe down a slide before you kids get on it then do it, you may get some weird stares but I'd rather get looked at weird then keep my kids from enjoying fun kid friendly places and activities.

Good luck. I'm sure it's very frustrating for you and your kids so I hope you find some help!

1 mom found this helpful
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M.J.

answers from Chicago on

Hi JJ, the only advice that I can think of is faith of God, that He will protect you and your loved ones. It is His promise, "... if you obey my commandments, I will be your God and you will be my people, I will bless you and protect you from evil." Now, this is for loooong discussion. For my self, I can tell, that trusting God helped me to get over my weaknesses. Today I know, that God The Creator of ... everything, wants me to be happy and open to His love,grace, and ready for work on His field...
Sorry, if I offended you in any way. I just know so many people, whom God health people from conditions where doctors said, sorry there is nothing we can do. Might God bless you.

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G.C.

answers from Chicago on

JJ,

All the well intentioned germ advice in the world isn't going to help. I have always had a manageable case of OCD. But when my son was born 18 months ago, I went off the deep end. It is paralyzing for both you and your family. And it takes a bigger toll on your kids than you think. You need to get help. There is medicine that works, but it doesn't work forever - there is a very high relapse rate. But there is very successful therapy. It got me to a point where I can manage pretty well...and my son has a normal life. It seems to be an ongoing battle, but it does get better - you just can't do it on your own.

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A.G.

answers from Chicago on

Maybe start with some self-help books about anxiety disorders and OCD. Seriously...OCD can be very debilitating...(former stove checker here. I sought professional help at one point and was put on meds for quite some time. One thing I learned for sure were my triggers, and behaviours that preceded my having the need for compulsions. For instance, if I start ruminating in my head about death, yes I know morbid, or medical illnesses that may afflict me or my family, etc. I know the stress levels are way too high, and I need to reevaluate what is going on in my life, before it escalates to having to check everything like stoves, and doors, and behind shower curtains a gazillion times. SOmetimes not enough sleep is the culprit, or eating poorly, not enough activity, life events, etc. Sometimes I think identifying the trigger is the best help of all because then at least you can tell yourself this is why it is happening. ANyhow, I am happy to report I am medication free for seven years now, relativly obsessio free except for as of late due to some extreeme stress, but definately compulsion free, although the thought crosses my mind. Hope this helps tou are not alone.

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E.P.

answers from Chicago on

Think of it this way, children’s immune systems are strengthened by exposure to germs and illnesses. If they never have a chance to build up antibodies they are at higher risk of being chronically ill later in life. Just control the things you can, like encouraging them to wash their hands before meals, after play time etc and call them on keeping their fingers out of their eyes, ears, nose, and mouth which is where germs primarily enter through. Lastly, there was a show on Oprah a couple of weeks ago about people suffering from a similar situation as yours, you should check out her website. Good luck!

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K.K.

answers from Chicago on

From what I've read, being too clean is not good either. It makes it too hard to fight any germs you do come in contact with. And, let's face it, there are germs everywhere. Good handwashing practices solves over 90% of that problem. Also, your children will go to school, I presume, and they will come in contact with all kinds of people, no matter how you try to avoid it. It's just a fact of life. I teach preschool and have noticed that the fussier moms have the kids who are always home sick. If you can't lighten up for the kids sake than, for your own sake, find someone to talk to that can help you solve this problem. Believe me, my own kids are OLD (31 & 25) and they grow up healthy in spite of us and germs, somehow. I'll keep you in my prayers for a solution. Take care.

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J.C.

answers from Champaign on

I am so glad to read your post and read some of the comments. I am NOT ALONE!
I do what I can with my 3-year-old. No sitting on the public floor, frequent hand wash and I wipe down surfaces with wipes...etc. One thing though, I can never understand is why so many people wear their shoes in the house?
I am originally from Asia and let me just say, people do not wear shoes into the house, nor are my European friends. But here in the US, 80% of people I know drag their germy, dirty shoes around - I don't get it, don't get it!!!
Anyway, I agree with one of the comment, while we do need to take it "easy" a bit, we should shift our effort on making out bodies stronger by eating right, exercise....
One last note, it's possible to do it - look at Jon & Kate plus 8, she is just like us!

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D.G.

answers from Chicago on

When a fear of germs starts to limit your (and your childrens') quality of life, it should definately be taken seriously. I would recommend talking to a psychologist and/or a therapist. There are non-medication methods for helping you with your fear, and then there are also medications that you can take to help prevent your fear and take away any panicky feelings that you may have when in a situation with germs. Good luck with this, and please get the help you need. I know that there is a stigma for people taking meds or getting therapy, but if you had a broken leg, you would get it fixed....this is no different.

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T.T.

answers from Chicago on

Hi JJ,
You should find a good psychologist who specializes in EMDR (eye movement desensitization and repetition therapy.) It might be an alternative to medication. The therapist can possibly help you get over your issues with germs. I know a very good therapist who has an office in Barrington and Park Ridge, I don't know if that's near you,(I can email you her info if you're interestd) otherwise you can find therapists near your home online. EMDR has helped me with repetitive thoughts, (mild OCD), and I didn't need to go on medication.
Good luck with everything.

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E.P.

answers from Chicago on

I would always get nervous bringing my kids to a Chuck-e-Cheese or McDonald's or play areas primarily for little ones because, quite frankly, some aren't as clean as others. Beyond that, if you are paralyzed by the thought of your children contracting germs, I hope you take the steps to talk to a dr. who can give you guidance on handling your fears. You don't want to get to a point where YOUR fears become your children's fears. Kids will learn the best things from us, as well as the worst. Good luck.

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J.D.

answers from Chicago on

I agree with the OCD issues. Sounds like you are asking for help with that specifically. Good for you for asking! Hugs!!

Oprah had a great show on it: http://www.oprah.com/tows/pastshows/200805/tows_past_2008...

Some resources from the link above as well:

Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Jonathan Grayson, PhD

For more information on Dr. Grayson, visit www.aatcphila.com or call ###-###-####.

The Obsessive Compulsive Foundation has resources and additional information at www.ocfoundation.org

Find more resources from the Anxiety Disorders Association of America at www.adaa.org

For more on the YMCA's Camp Ockanickon, visit www.ymca.net

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L.B.

answers from Chicago on

You might consider consulting with a certifed consulting hypnotist.
Hypnosis is an effective tool useful in altering your attitude & thoughts.
Wishing you wellness.

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K.E.

answers from Chicago on

Hi JJ, I'm a counselor and I have a practice in Schaumburg if you are interested in looking into therapy to help you with your anxieties. I have worked with many people suffering from anxiety issues and there are a number of behavioral changes that can help someone who has those obsessive thoughts. In addition you can also speak with a psychiatrist or your GP about medication to help. I do recommend therapy in conjunction with medication, though. Medication on it's own generally doesn't do the trick, and depending on how severe your struggle is therapy alone may not be enough, either. I wish you the best of luck in facing this. Please feel free to call or email me for a free phone consultation at ###-###-#### or [email protected]____.com.

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R.A.

answers from Chicago on

have you ever tried to look at it from the other end? i mean, you're looking at it as germs are BAD - if you go places where there are germs then you (or the kids) will get sick. but germs are actually very helpful. they digest food, they break down garbage and create earth, they build up the immune system to create a healthy child. avoiding germs is actually harming your children's immune systems by depriving the system of the chance to do its job - kind of like trying to teach a child to read without providing any books. or think of all the places that you go that are absolutely covered in germs that you take for granted -- like the doctors office or the grocery store or your back yard -- and remember how your strong children come home just fine.

B.K.

answers from Chicago on

Not to freak you out even more, but on a field trip recently my daughter's class learned about germs. The teacher used anti-bacterial hand cleanser and then they used a blacklight on her hands to see if it had worked, and she had cleaned off NOTHING. The only way to really clean your hands is proper washing with soap and warm water. With the hand cleansers, you're really just rubbing the germs around and making them resistant to future anti-bacterial stuff.

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A.B.

answers from Chicago on

I remember having the same problem after my first was born. I always had a bottle of antibacterial hand gel and washed my hands so much that they were covered with rashes. Then I saw a segment on the Oprah show with Dr. Oz. I am going to over-simplify what he said, but it was something along the lines of we shouldn't worry so much about coming in contact with the things flying around (germs, viruses, ect.), we should make sure that we strengthen our immune systems so that our bodies are able to fight them off. Of course, he said it more eloquently. That really made difference for me. I have been focusing more on what I am putting in my nutritionally and it made the fears lesson. I hope this helps a little!

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C.W.

answers from Chicago on

Good Morning, JJ,

God bless you and your family. You did not ask, necessarily, for christian advice; but a scripture came to mind immediately when I read your question. So that is all that I have. Please do not be offended.

Of course you should always avoid the obvious dangers to your children and yourself; but at some point, like things unseen,(germs), you have to let go and trust God. So here is a scripture to reflect upon when you are going out into the world. I always include it in my grace when dining out as protection against any food or preparer issues. Or when I can't avoid other's illnesses like colds and flu in public places. I pray that it will help you. Since children pick up all kinds of things before you can stop them; I thought the first part would get my point across. Or God's point, that is:

"They will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; ..." Mark 16:18. NIV www.biblegateway.com

You might want to read the entire chapter which is what I was always taught, but I thought that this part would give you some peace as you are protected under the covering of our Lord that you just ask Him. Pray a hedge of protection around your family and go out and enjoy yourself!

In His Service,
C. W

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D.B.

answers from Chicago on

My advice is to seek help. You sound like you have OCD with obsessive thoughts and anxiety being your problem. There are medications that can help. My daughter had repetitive thoughts. She was always worried that I would get in a car crash or something bad would happen to her family. No one around would know this about her. She is such a great kid, but she struggled with this and it caused her such worry. I finally saw a psychiatrist because I did not want to have her suffering anymore. She is now a very happy 17 year old and doesn't worry or stress. Nobody should have to just accept this condition. You wouldn't let your diabetes be out of control. Why would you let your chemical l imbalance in your brain control your kids and your life? By the way, I am and RN. I felt very badly about medication but now I understand that if she can be happy, that is all I want for her. Go get help!!!

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M.M.

answers from Chicago on

Hi JJ,
I think what you are describing is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Lots of people have them to varying degrees and it can appear in all types of ways - obession with handwashing, have to repeat an action such as brushing hair a specific number of times, having to put clothing on in a very specific way or chewing food a specific number of times before swallowing. It may also be a type of extreme phobia. Many people just live with these behaviors and pass them off as eccentricities. I believe something becomes a disorder when it starts to disrupt your lifestyle or impedes your ability to live a normal life. It sounds as though you feel you are at that point. In either case, this is a common enough and well-studied enough area that there have been very effective medications and therapies developed. I am not an expert, but my dad has been a psychiatrist for almost 30 years now and I did major in Psych in college. If you feel you cannot live with this "disease" as you say any longer, it is time to seek professional assistance. The key is to find a therapist you are comfortable with. It may take a few tries, it's a lot like finding an OB/GYN or a pediatrician. OB's and ped's can follow several different schools of thought on pregnancy, childbirth, child rearing, etc. You have to find the one that most closely matches your beliefs and comfort style. Same thing with a therapist. If one doesn't work for you, that doesn't mean it's hopeless or it won't work, just try a new doctor. I bet if you post another request on Mamasource and ask for referrals for therapists that specialize in OCD or phobias you'll get some references to start with. It may be a bit of a process - like with any other illness you want to get a correct diagnosis first and then a course of treatment, but you can do it. Posting this request was the first brave step!
Good luck,
Mary-Claire

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S.S.

answers from Chicago on

Look up obsessive-compulsive disorder.I have a hunch that is what you have. When I was married to my first husband he had the same problems. I ended up doing a lot of things on my own and felt left out. He went for treatment and received meds which helped immensely. He would however stop taking them, and continued to do these and other things. You are not crazy, it is a disorder. He went a little further, he would think he hit people while he was driving and he had to drive around the block twenty times to make sure there weren't any bodies. It was very scarey to me. I divorced him eventually but I am sad to this day because it didn't have to be. My children grew up with a very kind stepfather but I really loved that man. He felt he didn't need to do much more about it. You can help your life now and your children. There was a woman who worked with my husband and she was terrified of germs, then became terrified of cleansers -now she stayed in the house all of the time but eventually she got help.Behavior modification and meds work fabulously and there is a lot of help out there. I believe there is an "Obsessive Compulsive foundation" out there. I haven't dealt with this in awhile, but they will direct you to the right help. It's not limited to germs. Others check stoves frequently, count steps, it's the compulsion to repeat that is usually relevant but germs are in there, too. My husband said he'd get sick about the plates people were eating off of in a chucky cheese type of place. So that's why he stayed home. I didn't understand it wasn't me. So you'll help your family if you realize this: It's not a sickness, it's not crazy, it's a disorder and you are among millions of people the same way. You will be fine. S.

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N.S.

answers from Chicago on

HI JJ ~ You are right when saying this is a sickness. Germs are yucky, but avoiding places and people is very extreme. I work in the psych field and see this quite often. And believe it or not, your children will pick up these behaviors from you. Know that there are free support groups, doctors who specialize this, people who can help you. Once this starts, it is very difficult to just let go. Please know you are not alone. If you would like further info on doctors or support groups, please feel free to email me.

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J.J.

answers from Springfield on

Hi JJ,

I know that germs can be scary sometimes. I also know that you want to keep your kids safe. Buy a bottle of germ-x to keep handy if you would like. (I do, especially through the winter months) You can look out for your children just so much. Try to have fun with them. Get togethers can be great for both you and your children together. Sometimes even being around other germs can teach bodies how to fight off that germ. Good Luck,
J.

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D.L.

answers from Chicago on

I am similar but not as bad. What helps me alot is the fact that children need to ne exposed to germs to build up their immune system. Knowing this I always think that I am helping them in the long run by exposing them to germs now....

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S.B.

answers from Chicago on

I have germ phobia, but I have realized that you can always wash your hands, this is my mantra, i repeat this to myself and I can pretty much touch anything and just know that i can wash my hands. Also, if your children aren't ever exposed to germs they will have weak immune systems b/c exposure to germs is part of what makes them strong. I am so far from what I used to be with the germ thing, you can get better. hang in there.

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