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Yes or no to the five-second rule?

Written by By Emma Dawson • Online since 10.04.2018 • Filed under Feature • From Seventeen - April to June 2018 page(s) 14-15
Yes or no to the five-second rule?

It’s a given that toddlers and teething babies put everything in their mouths, and often things that make parents cringe. Does the five-second rule apply in your home, or is dropped food or a dummy immediately discarded or disinfected? Just how worried do you need to be about germs and how clean should you keep your child’s environment?

There’s growing acceptance that exposure to germs helps to develop the body’s immune system. However, there are two schools of thought. The first relates to what’s known as the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests a young child’s environment can be too clean to effectively stimulate or challenge the child’s immune system to ward off threats during the maturation of the immune system.

On the other hand, another faction of scientists dispels this hypothesis, believing instead that the poor state of our immune health, in general, has nothing to do with hygiene. They maintain that early exposure to a diverse range of friendly microbes (not infectious pathogens) is what teaches the immune system to react appropriately to stimuli. If this is true, then reducing personal hygiene will not decrease allergic disorders and may increase infections. Most of the germs that live on our bodies or in our environments are harmless. But as our lifestyles change, some of the healthy microbes that live in our gut are disappearing, which has an impact on our health.

So how clean should your child’s environment be? Like all things in life, finding a balance is key.

Microbes and pathogens

Microbes are like bacteria and viruses that are too small to see with the naked eye. They exist on every surface and in every environment, including in your body. While most can’t harm you, and are in fact beneficial, some microbes known as pathogens cause disease.

A small number of microbes cause infectious diseases by entering the body, overcoming your immune system’s defences and spreading. Therefore, it’s important to protect your family from diseases caused by bacteria, which can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours. Germs pass from person to person and from person to surface.

High-risk areas in your home

When it comes to harbouring bacterial germs, there are a number of high-risk areas in your home. Household germs that can make you sick include Staphylococcus aureus, or staph; yeast and mould; Salmonella; Escherichia coli, or E. coli, and faecal matter. According to the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) in the US, areas where food is stored or prepared has more bacteria and faecal contamination than other places in the home. More than 75% of dish sponges and rags tested showed Salmonella, E. coli, and faecal matter compared to 9% on bathroom taps.

Cleaning tips

Disinfect sink and taps, cleaning clothes and sponges, chopping boards, your bin, the inside of the fridge and especially areas where you keep uncooked, unwashed food. Once a week, disinfect countertops, handles and knobs for appliances and cupboards, and light switches, as well as surfaces touched by your pets. In the bathroom, mould needs to be kept in check, particularly damp areas where mould and mildew will grow. Daily cleaning should include the shower tub, drains, taps, and the floor around the toilet, while a more thorough disinfecting clean once a week is good practice. Bathroom towels should be replaced weekly and toothbrushes ever three to four months. Don’t forget to clean remote controls, computer keyboards, phones, and tablets, which are often shared by the whole family. Pets also contribute to household germs and bacteria. According to the NSF, pet bowls are fourth on the list of home hotspots for the most germs. Pet toys also carry staph, yeast, and mould. Wash pet bowls every day with warm, soapy water, and soak in bleach once a week. Clean hard toys regularly with hot, soapy water, and wash soft toys monthly.

In the nursery, keep changing mats and surrounding surfaces clean. The same goes for floors (when you have a crawling baby) and your children’s toys. It’s inevitable that you’ll bring germs into your home from outside so keep things like your cell phone, keys and wallet clean. To be safe, you can use specific cleaning products for electronic goods, otherwise soap and water, bleach and water, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitisers will do the job. To help stop the spread of germs, ensure your family masters good hand cleaning habits, particularly after using the bathroom or touching raw food. It’s recommend that regular handwashing with soap and water for 20 to 30 seconds removes germs and helps avoid illnesses.

Seventeen - April to June 2018

Seventeen - April to June 2018

This article was featured on page 14-15 of Babys and Beyond Seventeen - April to June 2018 .

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