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The Real Deal on Germs

GERMOPHOBE RULE #3: No doggy kisses allowed.

REALITY CHECK: Unless your child has an open wound that's at risk for infection from germs in the dog's saliva, a canine smooch typically isn't cause for concern, says Frenck. Still, it's best to have your child wash up after he's been slobbered on by any animal -- if the dog is unknowingly infected with parasites, they can be found inside its mouth. Besides, you can't be sure what Fido last licked.

GERMOPHOBE RULE #4: Leftover food and formula go straight into the trash.

REALITY CHECK: Save that leftover baby food -- but only if your child's spoon wasn't dipped directly into the jar. While she probably won't get sick if you double dip later, digestive enzymes from her saliva can break down food and cause it to spoil more quickly (and it's not always easy to tell when mashed peas and beef have gone bad). Your safest bet is to pour what you need into a bowl and then serve it. With formula and breast milk, leftovers are safe as long as the same child is consuming them, and the formula hasn't been at room temperature for more than two hours (breast milk, which is loaded with antibodies, can sit out for up to 10 hours).

GERMOPHOBE RULE #5: Fruits and vegetables -- even prewashed ones -- must be rinsed again at home.

REALITY CHECK: When it comes to food preparation, you can't be too careful. Even prewashed, ready-to-eat foods can be contaminated with traces of dirt, bacteria, and pesticides. To remove these residual contaminants, clean all produce with water and a scrub brush, then pat dry with a clean cloth or paper towel before serving. Remember to wash your hands, utensils, and kitchen surfaces with hot, soapy water after handling fresh produce to avoid contaminating other foods.

GERMOPHOBE RULE #6: You wash your baby's binkie every time she drops it on the kitchen floor.

REALITY CHECK: Moms joke about the five-second rule. But any amount of time on the floor is long enough for dropped objects to become contaminated with illness-causing bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, according to a recent Clemson University study. An object or piece of food dropped on a kitchen or bathroom floor is more likely to pick up these harmful bugs, but it's always best to discard dropped food and clean fallen items with hot water and soap before giving them back to your baby.

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