Tag Archives: Health

Box of Germs

There’s a public place crawling with cooties, infested with every sickness known to motherhood, and filled with ear-piercing screams that frightens me, almost worse than any bathroom (not all of them, come on now). It takes my germophobia to a whole new level. It’s the pediatrician’s office.

As my kids and I waited one day this week to find out whether my daughter had strep (she did), my hysteria settled in.

Any time my kids and I visit that box of germs, I know we are gambling with our health. It’s not like school where there is a chance of getting sick. Real, live sick germs crawl all over this place day and night. You go in there, you will touch something that a sick person has touched.

My brain goes into overdrive. What do these kids have? Is it worse than what we have? What will we end up getting on our way out? I plop my kids in the seats farthest from anyone. I shriek-whisper to them not to touch anything. Repeatedly. We hand-sanitize several times a visit if necessary.

It’s a house of horrors where tortured kids scream in pain. My kids and I slink down in our seats and hope that’s not what’s in store for our tiny room. The other day a kid down the hall was screaming, “I can’t take it! You’re killing me!” Well, we couldn’t take it either. We were about to get our coats and tiptoe for the nearest exit.

Our doctor said it was an ear problem. I nearly collapsed at the memories of someone prodding in my ears as a kid and adult and my own threats to punch them if they didn’t stop. Who do these doctors think they are?

The good news is, I don’t need a therapist to help me figure out the traumatic event that triggered my germophobic behavior either. Many years ago during our first after-hours visit, my kids and I sat crammed into “the sick room” waiting for an hour to be seen. Everyone in that room looked sweaty and miserable and coughed. And coughed. And coughed.

I thought I had died and that was my hell. I tried to disguise the fact that I was using my hand as a germ shield over my nose and mouth. I stole bits of clean air when I could. I fought off a panic attack. I fidgeted in my seat. I made sure the kids didn’t touch anything or anyone. When would the stinking nurse call our name?! We were only there for an ear infection for Pete’s sake! Don’t they have a separate room for that?

When the kids were younger, one trip to the doctor so often led to a return visit within a week with what we caught there. We could have caught it somewhere else, but my kids weren’t in preschool at the time. The pattern fit. It was a running joke when we left the doctor. “I’m sure we’ll see you in a week.” Most of the time, we did.

I’m always thankful for our doctor’s wisdom—goodness knows he has shared a lot—and the medicine. But I am always ready to run out that door and into the fresh air because that’s a long time to hold your breath.

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Confessions of a Germophobe

When you have kids, it happens. Or at least, it happened to me. All that guck spilled forth on you each day. The shriveled-up, days-old food they’d slowly bring to their toddler mouths on gooey fingers. Rubbing their hands over every public surface before wiping their eyes, nose, mouth, and tongue with furious pleasure. It didn’t take long for me to become a germophobe. I’m trying to break free. But I still have many moments. And now that sick season is upon us, my soap sits at the ready.

I know what my kids touch every day. I know it’s good for their immune systems. Still, they don’t need to touch every germ, do they? They don’t need full exposure. Last year my daughter brought home everything from kindergarten. And I mean everything.

Now those are clean hands.

We wash our hands when we come inside from anywhere. I think that’s a sound rule. I hear and see what goes on. Toilets flush and sinks spray on for two seconds. Boogies go in places. In places. Raggedy dolls need to be washed. Hands rub over the bottoms of shoes that step in who knows what. It’s a nasty world out there.

And school? That warm bubble of sweaty kids, crammed into classrooms, sneezing and talking in each other’s faces? I’ve been there in classes where kids have coughed in my face. They go outside and never wash their grubby hands before lunch. I deal. I cringe, but I deal.

But I heard those four little words from my son on the way home from school this week, those words I dread every year.

“So-and-so threw up today.”

Great. Just great.

“And she didn’t even go home.”

Stop. The. Car.

“What?! Why didn’t she go home? She sat in your class all day?”

“Yup.” I think he knew that bothered me a great deal, and I think he liked it.

The interrogation began. As always, I wanted to know if he was anywhere near this vomiter at any point of that day or the days leading up to it. Did she breathe on him? Does she sit at his table? Did anything splash in his direction? (That has happened before…and it involved his lunch tray. Ew.)

Her being a girl means that there is likely no way he had any contact with her whatsoever.

Throw-up scares me. We had held out for seven years. Seven years, people! Until my daughter started kindergarten and brought that nasty bug home to us last year. She suffered for a fraction of our misery. My husband, son, and I were laid out for a weekend while she did nothing but beg us to play with her. I lay motionless and let my husband do almost all of the cleanup. He is great about that. I make an effort, all the while gagging and convulsing like a dog in the yard retching up dinner.

Kids, this is the reason we only put food in our mouths. Not thumbs or boogies. We don’t touch our nasty shoes while we’re eating dinner. We wash our hands for more than two seconds. We don’t pick up strange things off the ground and say, “What’s this?” It’s your ticket to the doctor, that’s what it is. Put that nasty thing down.

I just can’t get over my phobia yet. Sorry. Sick season is here, my soap is ready, and my nagging resumes today.

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