Germs: Myths and Facts

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We all try to avoid contact with germs to prevent illnesses such as colds, the flu, and other infections. And we all know that one of the simplest ways to prevent the spread of germs is frequent hand washing done the right way—with soap and clean, running water for at least 20 seconds. But for all the good advice we have gotten—or given—there are some myths out there about germs and the prevention of illness. Have a look at what’s a fact, and what’s not.

You should wash new toys before you allow your child to play with them.

False. New toys, just out of the packaging, are probably safe for little hands. Toys that are shared by children, such as in a day care setting or after a playdate, probably should be washed frequently in warm, soapy water, and air dried. And encourage your little one to wash his hands frequently, or wash them for him.

You should avoid touching public surfaces.

True. Not everyone follows the frequent hand washing rule, and because of that, public surfaces such as door handles, grocery carts, buffets, conference tables, and more can host a wide variety of germs and bacteria. When opening and closing doors, try to use your sleeve or a paper towel to avoid contact with the handle, and use sanitizing wipes on grocery carts, which are particularly germy.

The five-second rule: If a bit of food or a pacifier falls on the floor for less than five seconds, it’s safe.

False. Bacteria attach to an object the second it hits the floor. If it’s food, it’s a good idea to throw it out. If it’s a pacifier, cutlery, or another object that will go in your mouth, wash it before you use it.

You don’t need to wash organic fruit.

False. Organically grown fruit has been grown without pesticides, but it still needs to be washed because it’s been handled by growers and shippers during the journey from the field to your kitchen.

Dishwashers kill germs and sanitize baby bottles and sippy cups.

True. Your dishwasher’s internal heating element raises the temperature of the water, which becomes hot enough to sterilize the bottles, rims, and nipples.