Not As Clean As They Seem…

imageSupermarket shopping with Isabella is always a bit of a juggle. She peeps out of the Ergobaby in wonderment at the dazzling lights and flashy coloured advertising, while I rush as fast as possible, hoping the novelty won’t wear off before we’re done. I’ve got shopping down to an art now… I go early morning when it’s quiet and zoom through the supermarket with the trolley, list on phone. Before I know it, we’ve paid, are in the car and back home by the time some people are having breakfast!

Being an Optometrist in my non-maternity leave life, I’m pretty aware of hygiene and the importance of washing hands and what I touch. Being a mum, sometimes that all goes out the window in a mix of sleep deprivation, baby protest cries and the sheer impossibility of having more hands or being in two places at once.

Mindfulness about what we touch when out is however important. I read a study recently about the huge amounts of bacteria we all have on our mobile phones (10 times that of a public toilet seat!) Apparently some viruses can also survive on the glass touch screen. We all use our phones so much that they’re often out on display – the shopping basket, cafe table, grass at a picnic, in our pocket with money, in the nappy bag, in our hands while we shop… They are placed on surfaces everywhere, yet we mistakenly view them as clean and because they are electronic, don’t think about cleaning them. It’s time to think twice…

Money is passed from person to person and never gets washed and hence is teeming with bacteria too. Our purses and handbags – the home of both our money and our mobile phones are also another place that isn’t as clean as we think. The other top places for bacterial contamination are trolley handles, restaurant menus, ATM buttons, public door handles, ground floor lift buttons and our steering wheels.

I wouldn’t say I’m paranoid about bacteria and germs at all. I’m lucky to have a great immune system and am aware I probably confront it with lots of germs inadvertently every day. I am however aware that Isabella’s immune system is still maturing and so she’s more likely to be vulnerable to things that pass her way. It doesn’t mean I want to keep Isabella in a sterile environment, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t however want to constantly touch things that have 10 times more bacteria than a public toilet seat and then touch her hair, face and hands either. It’s all about balance and mindfulness.

There’s a lot of research now which suggests being too clean can increase the risk for allergy. (I’ll write a post about this soon!) Bacteria aren’t all bad, in fact most are actually beneficial. A lot of the ‘bad’ bacteria come from people not washing their hands after using the bathroom or practicing basic hygiene. This post isn’t about trying to create a sterile environment for our babies, but rather realising that some things we touch without thinking have the potential to have been touched by hundreds of people not practicing the type of hygiene you or I would.

Luckily, a wipe over with an alcohol swab (you can buy them in the 100 pack at any chemist) on a phone gets rid of almost 99.9% of bacteria… So quick and easy! A great way to clean all things you can’t wash, like your purse etc. I try to do this at least once every few days.

Apart from that, I just practise a bit of mindfulness – I keep a small container of alcohol gel in the car door next to Isabella’s car seat to use after the shops and I wouldn’t let her suck on a restaurant menu even if she is telling me she’d love to. If I touch money, I try to wash my hands or use alcohol gel before I touch Isabella again. Washing hands properly with normal soap has been shown to be just as effective as hand sanitiser and a lot gentler on the skin, so I much prefer it if I’ve got the choice.

I don’t sweat the small stuff, but I think it’s important to treat all the bacteria on my phone, money, purse, trolley handles, public door handles etc. with the awareness and respectful distance it deserves.

Everyone takes a different approach to this, some people are more cautious and some people less. What do you do?x

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