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Health & Parenting

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How Clean Should We Be?

What You Can Stop Worrying About


Barnes cites studies that show that kids who grow up around pets are less likely to get asthma. Kids in day care who are exposed to kids with colds and other germs are less likely to end up with allergies, asthma, and other health problems.

Sterilizing Everything

You can probably lay off all the antibacterial soaps and cleansers. Even the FDA is skeptical. They are asking antibacterial soap makers to prove that the products are more effective than regular soap. There are also questions about the safety of some of the ingredients, so there may be more risks than benefits. "The vast amount of types of bacteria and viruses and fungi that we see in everyday life don’t hurt us at all. They're just there," says Weinstock “Only a handful” are likely to make you sick, he says.

To get rid of germs when washing your hands, encourage your kids to lather up for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.


When your child is sick, you definitely want to go to the doctor to get him checked out. But many childhood illnesses are caused by viruses. Antibiotics won’t fight those or speed your little one’s recovery in those cases.

“The first response shouldn’t be to demand to put your child on an antibiotic, which will kill the good bacteria in order to fight the bad bacteria,” Barnes says. Good bacteria live in our guts, and we need them for digestion.

Also, if you use antibiotics too often, they might not work as well when you really need them.

Germs: Where to Fight

Even if you don’t have to stress about everything, there are some key things to focus on to keep your family healthy and happy. You can be "germ smart," say the experts, by sticking to some basics.

  • Use separate cutting boards and utensils for produce and for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Wash countertops, utensils, and cutting boards in hot, soapy water.
  • Use a food thermometer. Cook whole meats to 145 F, ground meats to 160 F, and chicken and turkey to 165 F.
  • Don't leave out food for more than 2 hours. Keep it to less than 1 hour when it is warm outside.
  • Disinfect kitchen counters before and after preparing food. Use paper towels or sanitizing wipes.
  • Disinfect bathroom surfaces often -- especially if someone in the house is sick.

Wash your hands often, including before and after preparing food, after going to the bathroom or handling diapers, after handling pets, and whenever they look dirty.

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