When it comes to germs, are you a pacifist or warmonger?

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably figured out that I’m a live and let live kinda girl – a pacifist if you will. For the most part that philosophy carries over to germs too. I don’t obsessive-compulsively clean my house (ha! far from it.). I don’t carry around antibacterial hand sanitizer. I don’t worry about my kids washing their hands after playing outside. I don’t balk about them being around another kid with the sniffles. I don’t buy antibacterial soap (although it’s almost impossible to find one that’s not these days!), nor do I own a bottle of Lysol. I figure it’s good for their immune systems to be challenged (in moderation) on a regular basis so that they build up immunities and their bodies learn how to fight infection. Heck, even the New York Times agrees A Little Dirt is Good for You (a very interesting read by the way).

Photo courtesy of hoyasmeg

Photo courtesy of hoyasmeg

For the most part, we live pretty healthy lives. Sure we get a cold every now and then, but true knock-you-on-your-butt-kind-of-illnesses are pretty rare in this house. That is until a couple of weeks ago.

A little over two weeks ago Ava started out with a cough, congestion and runny nose and a few days later the rest of us followed suit. Runny, stuffy noses, coughs, and the phlegm, oh, the phlegm! I ended up having to go to the doctor because the mucus I was trying to cough up was so thick it was lodging in my throat and I was having serious difficulty breathing. (How’s that for anxiety producing?! Like I needed help in that regard.) I started taking a prescribed drug to help thin up my mucus and began drinking a whole lot more water. I also took some homeopathic and herbal remedies (Cold Care, Kick-Ass Immune Activator, and Lymph Mover, just to name a few), as well as gave some to the kids (Elderberry Syrup, Cough Control, Sinus Relief). Jody (who’s not as concerned about treating himself using natural remedies) started on his own regimen of OTC (over the counter) meds. We also cut dairy out of our diets, were taking our vitamins and probiotics, drinking tons of tea and water as well as some fruit and veggie smoothies and kombucha, and even trying hot toddies (Jody and I, not the kids). Nobody was showing signs of getting better. There’s nothing like waking up day after day expecting to feel some improvement, like you are finally on the road to recovery, and then realizing you feel just as crappy and worn down as the day before. It gets old.

Finally, after two weeks of coughing and a runny nose, Ava is mostly recovered. Jody, Julian and I however are still fighting it and, on top of the crud, Jody and Julian developed the stomach flu today. (!!!) Nothing like getting hit when you’re down, eh? Ugh. But Ava’s recovery gives me hope that the other three of us will, at some point, hopefully in the next few days (pretty please??), recover from it too (and also reassures me that it’s likely a viral infection – which is what my doctor suspected – and not bacterial so antibiotics would be useless at this point).

This is, by far, the worst and longest we’ve all been sick at the same time and, seeing how many of my friends and their kids, both locally and elsewhere in the country, are suffering from illnesses lately as well, makes me wonder what the heck is going on? Could these be some type of superbugs or at least new viruses unlike any we’ve seen before? Is my lackadaisical attitude towards germs now biting me in the butt? Should I be arming myself with Lysol and spraying my house into a toxic-smelling box of germ-killing goodness? Of course that goes against everything I just said and would definitely contribute to the whole superbug phenomenon. Is there a fine line – a balance between the two?

How do you handle germs in your house? Are you a pacifist or a warmonger? And when the ickies do infiltrate your home, what methods do you use to get them out and everyone healthy again? I’m not reaching for the Lysol yet, but the longer this goes on, the more tempted I get.

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48 thoughts on “When it comes to germs, are you a pacifist or warmonger?

  1. I an defintely a Pacifist in the war on Germs. Blame it on being a bachelor my whole life, and not being raised by June Cleaver- to havung a belief that if you live in a germ free enviorment, You will not build any immunity to germs.

  2. I am also of the pacifist persuasion, but when I do feel something coming on, or am around someone who is sick, I usually take grapefruit seed extract, it is amazing stuff! 10 or 15 drops in a little water…it tastes absolutely terrible, but it works every time:)

  3. I got hit really hard this winter, too, and I’m sure if I had kids, the illnesses would have lasted a lot longer. But I’m not willing to give up my Pacifist ways. I really believe that it’s all the antibacterial war-mongering that’s created these super bugs in the first place. Let’s just make sure we’re doing everything else we should, like getting enough sleep. (She says while hanging out on Facebook at 2am.)

  4. i’m big on hand-washing and using that cleanwell hand sanitizer stuff. as much as possible goes into the washing machine or dishwasher when people (read: kids) are sick and i try to get everyone outdoors, open up the house, etc. this doesn’t work in the winter:-)

    i do use lysol occasionally, especially with poop emergencies. cold germs don’t scare me as much as fecal germs…

  5. Another pacifist here. No antibacterial soaps or sprays. My homemade all purpose cleaner does have a splash of vinegar in it, but that is about the extent of me going after germies. We had a pretty decent winter, but the last few weeks we’ve been suffering from a cold that just won’t quit.

  6. We’re definitely pacifists in this house which is why (I think) DH and I have been suffering from some sort of mucous based ear/nose/throat thing for a month now! He went to the Dr. and was put on 10 days of antibiotics last month and he’s still as sick as I am and I’ve been rockin’ the congaplex and immunosupport the whole time. Its got to be some sort of virus.

  7. We’re pacifists to a point. For example, last winter when everyone else had stomach ‘flu and I was 36 weeks pregnant and just recovering from a traumatic hospital experience I pulled out the bleach and the paper towels and became obsessive in my war on germs. But mostly I’m very relaxed.

  8. It’s the same here- I’m pretty balanced about things but I also don’t put myself in harm’s way (we keep well kids out of doctor’s offices and hospitals) and I try to keep the sheets washed more often when colds are around, etc. But sometimes I think a lot of other things come into play, such as opening the windows, getting outside, getting enough sleep, not eating sugar or having dairy… I am more crazy in those areas!

    Steph

  9. That coldthing has been going around Loveland/Fort Collins this winter/spring. It’s AWFUL! I had it twice.

    I found that saline nasal treatment (ala neti pot or similar), ibuprofen, and osha root syrup (a cough relief extract recommended by a natural pharmacist) were the only things that helped. (“Real” cough syrup didn’t touch it).

    It’s a pretty nasty bug. After I had it once, I started being super vigilant about germs at my work (with tiny children). I used the hand sanitizer constantly and washed my hands after every class. Then I got sick AGAIN and one more time. I stopped washing constantly, and haven’t been sick in a few months, just like normal (I do wash at the normal times).

    We don’t use antibacterial soap here. I’m of the toughen up your immune system type… seems to work better than the other for me, at least!

  10. I’m a pacifist. As a farm kid, I knew the saying, “Everyone eats a peck of dirt before they die.” well before I had any concept of a “peck”. (Actually I still don’t have an idea of what a peck is.) I agree that immune systems need to be tested and also that Reid’s is well-prepared, given our extended nursing relationship. I might change my tune after 2 weeks of what you’re facing or I might think that the family was ready to fight off any germs since it survived the 2 week ordeal. Good luck with getting better. At our house, we put a lot of faith in water and sleep for recovery.

  11. Thank you for putting a nice spin on my lazy housekeeping ways! My daughter, who just turned one, has had nothing more than a one day sniffle hear and there. My friends kids are always sick, and she is kind of a lysol/hand sanitizer freak. I definitely attribute our relatively good health to healthy immune systems that actually have to be strong. And my house isn’t a mess, I just don’t really go overboard sanitizing. I do, however, use some Clorox everywhere spray once in a while. But for the most part, just plain old soap and water do the trick.

  12. I’m pretty uptight when it comes to germs. I have asthma so if I get sick it’s hell! With my husband being a school teacher he brings home everything! So once a week I spray a green disinfectant (PureGreen24 or Vinegar of Four Thieves) on pretty much everything. When someone is sick I spray things every few hours.

    I clean the kitchen with a natural antibacterial cleaner (EcoStore USA) every night when I clean the kitchen.

    With our allergies I’m always cleaning. I have a good immune system and would clean a bit less if not for allergies and husband working at a school. But everything I use is natural and I think that is key!

  13. Definitely a pacifist here. I don’t even own anything to spray on anything (except windex), and I think that bleach is evil. Nothing works better than good ol’ soap and water. We’ve had our share of illnesses this winter, but sickness is just part of life. I just encourage my family to wash their hands often, keep my house clean, and expect the rest to work out.

  14. I am definitely more easy going on the germ front. My husband, however, is a germaphobe (makes for some interesting times…) and is quite obsessive about eliminating germs. We have both compromised a bit, ie. I won’t allow the alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the house and for the sake of my husband, try to avoid visiting friends when they have so much as the common cold. We switched to safe, earth-friendly cleaning products (Shaklee’s Get Clean line- love them!)

    Amy, instead of getting Lysol, I’d love to share some of my Basic G Germicide with you (http://www.shaklee.net/startahealthylife/product/00525 ). It is safe and non-toxic, but kills germs for up to 3 days, it is really great stuff. I’d be happy to swing a bottle by for you…

    I think there is a fine line with this- we can’t be totally carefree because of the serious germs that are now out there, but we also can’t live a life of fear, dominated by those microbes that could potentially make us ill. I say, focus on building your immune system, keep your surroundings relatively clean (I’m not saying hosptial-grade sanitary though…), enjoy the fresh air and live your life.

    I hope you and your family turn the corner and start feeling better- let me know if you need anything, I’m just a few minutes away…

  15. I’m also a pacifist, and our colds and flus are few and far between.

    When we do get bit by a bug, we don’t go overboard with any kind of remedy. We increase our fluids, cut out all junk and dairy, and I limit everyone’s activities to increase the amount of rest. I also have no qualms about calling in sick or keeping the kids from school for just a couple of days in order to make sure they are getting their rest.

    I also boil our toothbrushes, change pillow cases every night, and microwave their stuffed animal of choice in order to prevent reinfection with whatever it is we got. I don’t know if it really does anything, but it makes me feel better.

  16. I’m on Day 6 of your described virus. It’s a doozy.

    I’m a nurse. And I’m a big believer in letting our bugs be.

    I use simple cleaners, vinegar, baking soda. I don’t buy antibacterial soap.

    Handwashing is something I’m a stickler on, though. When I’m sick, I make sure that I have my own handtowels and that everyone else is washing their hands. Thankfully, my son is old enough that he’s learned to wash wash wash and doesn’t need much reminding anymore.

    The thing about handwashing is that it protects people from things that are very preventable–doesn’t keep them from exposing themselves to “healthy” doses of bugs.

    This time of year is notorious for this type of virus. I hope you’re feeling better. (If I have another week of this, I don’t think I’ll survive!!)

    Take care

  17. Ooops, I forgot:

    Good old fashioned zinc and Vitamin C usually get me back on my feet quickly. Some of the homeopathics can be dangerous, use with caution and with your MEDICAL doctor’s appoval.

    (Stepping off soap box)

  18. I’m a pacifist in the war on germs. People who try to sterilize every inch of their house get sick, too. There’s no avoiding it – we live in a bacterial soup, and trying to fight it is futile. As well as contributing to superbugs and the like, as you mentioned.

    I’ve noticed this has been a really bad year for colds. In my house I’m attributing it to sleep deprivation (two kids, one of whom is teething, will do that!), a long cold winter keeping everyone indoors, and random chance. Some years are just bad for colds, and I’m not reading anything into it, right now I think it’s just happenstance.

    I hope you’re all back in fighting form soon. :)

  19. I’m a pacifist as well. Although, I do carry Cleanwell around with me everywhere and after Ava touches things with lots of other kids, playgrounds, shopping carts, etc. I break it out. We rarely get sick in our house but I attribute more to us getting monthly chiropractic appointments. When someone is sick, we break out the homeopathic remedies.

    Unfortunately, I picked up a cold as of now and I’m pregnant so I’m taking nothing to feel better except eating homemade chicken soup and drinking liquids as much as possible.

    I hope you guys feel better soon. You may want to contact a homeopath that can help get you natural remedies to strengthen the immune system.

  20. I just wanted to add that when clean, it is just vinegar and water and oils for me. I used to use those chemicals up until a few months ago but I’ve made the switch and never going back.

  21. I think I’m in between somewhere. I hate cleaning and don’t do it often. I pick up and wipe down, but as far as REALLY cleaning… not so much. I figure he’s going to get sick now, or he’s going to get sick later… thank you daycare or thank you school.

    I do ask that he wash his hands when they are filthy, but it is not a requirement before eating each and every time. He’s a grazer, and that would make us both miserable.

    Hmm… maybe I’m more of a pacifist than I thought. LOL!

  22. I’m somewhere in the middle. I do clean my house frequently, and we don’t wear shoes in the house, but that’s partly because we live in a big city with a severe rat problem. The rat population in our neighborhood is infected with the leptospirosis virus, which can be very serious, so I make sure my kids wash their hands and they always wear gloves if they are digging in the dirt in the yard. I’m not willing to see if their immune systems are up to battling lepto, because it can cause irreversible liver damage. There is also a lot of construction in the area, and a lead risk, so we wash up for those reasons too. There have been children in the neighborhood with high lead levels.

    We’ve been lucky this year, just a couple of colds and no major illnesses. I do wipe down doorknobs and phones, lightswitches, etc when someone has been sick and also on a regular basis. This is because *I* don’t want to catch whatever virus my kids had. We’ve dodged strep too, but if we had it, I would wash the toys and stuff because my baby nephew comes over to play and if he caught strep from my kids I would feel terrible.

  23. I like to wash my hands alot but I never use anti-bacterial soap. The only time I had that in my house was when I had my homebirth and it was part of the kit I needed to buy (for the midwives to use).
    I have a daycare in my home so I am supposed to ash the toys quite frequently. When I first opened I washed them a couple times a week (lots of work!) and now I do it maybe once every month or two. Because I found that my washing toys had nothing to do with whether kids got sick or not. Most of those germs are air-borne so there’s not much you can do to prevent the spread, and I would never buy Lysol because I’m allergic to chemical stuff anyway. So we build our immunity the old fashioned way!

  24. I’m a fan of good old-fashioned hand washing with regular soap and warm water. I agree that the immune system needs some work to do, and I think it gets a good workout with all the germies we come into contact with from the air and regular activity. That being said though, I still remind my kids to keep their hands away from their face while we are away from home, and to wash up when we return home…but the germs that are already in my house are certainly here to stay since cleaning and scrubbing are rare activities. I might add that we have no health insurance though, so getting seriously ill means an ER visit and a bill we cannot afford to pay, so we are cautious for that reason, as well. (i am going to jinx it, but…)no one in our house has had even a sniffle this whole winter, so whatever we have been doing has been working.

    Feel better soon!

  25. I like a clean house, so I clean it regularly most of the time with vinegar, which is anti-bacterial but I use it because it’s pet and people safe.

    When we have colds, we wash hands more frequently but with the regular soap that we have. I don’t buy anti-bacterial soaps, although I do have cleanwell hand sanitizer in my car’s glove box for those times when a public restroom is out of supplies.

    Mostly we try not to touch our faces or eyes so we don’t sprend it to others in the house. If it’s the flu I switch from cloth hankies to disposable tissues again, to keep the spread of pestilance from infecting anyone else in the family.

  26. I may be a little more extreme than most people, but castor oil packs are amazing things and not harmful. I also put a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in each ear and let them go ’til the fizzing has stopped – it feels amazing and really seems to help, but should only be done when first getting sick. (You may want to check with your doctor, as my mother the allopathic nurse was horrified when she heard that, though I have met others who also do it and swear by it). I steer completely clear of sugars, flour, and alcohol, and cold sock treatment is the best :)

  27. Goddess,

    It’s likely that you and you’re kids were victims to the biggest unknown health problem of the decade (and maybe even the century)- Vitamin D deficiency.

    While everyone knows that Vitamin C helps with colds and flu, almost no one knows about Vitamin D for colds and flu.

    It’s so powerful that many researchers theorize that Vitamin d deficiency is the ACTUAL CAUSE of flu- much like stress is the cause of cold sores and herpes outbreaks.

    I’ve put many resources at this link for more info:

    http://www.easy-immune-health.com/Vitamin-D-for-Cold-and-Flu-Symptoms.html

    Kerri Knox, RN- The Immune Queen

  28. We are total germ pacificists. So were both my parents and my husband’s mother, so we sort of figure that our kids are screwed. They’re going to go to school with antibacterial germaphobes and we’ll be all “go play outside and get dirty, okay?”

  29. Depends what it is. Viruses you can’t do much about. Hand washing and stuff like that I encourage but I don’t make a big deal of my kids washing before eating unless they really are filthy.

    However, when Tim got cryptospiridium I was more obsessive. It’s a notifiable disease so we did step up the hygiene for that one.

    If one of us gets sick I do try and prevent the spread of it, but really it is hard. I think the dishwasher helps for some things.

  30. I’m in the middle. I have a teacher mentality where year and years ago we used bleach and lysol and it makes me sick to think I did that (I did not know better). Now I’m diligent on hand washing but with safe soap not antibacterial. Josie suffers from bad asthma that is triggered by viruses so I’m more caution when other sniffles and sneezes are happening. I mostly just clean with natural germ killing stuff, fresh air when possible (even in cold winter months I air out the house) and being good at hand washing. I think that helps. I also not afraid to go to the doctor when something isn’t getting better. I think there’s a fine line of comfort. I don’t run for antibiotics every time but I’m not against seeing a doctor for an opinion.

  31. Boy I could confess here I’m sure not afraid of few germs.
    I’ve never bought antibacterial soap or wipes of any type.
    Plus my kids play with there truck in the dirt plus even ate it and there healthy.

    Coffee is on.

  32. That is SO why I started making my own stuff. I wanted to protect my family from the nasty, nasty bugs, but not subject them to the chemicals. We use a hand spray that has witch hazel and essential oils. And we use Vinegar of the Four Thieves to spray down surfaces.

  33. I’m somewhere in the middle. We don’t have any antibacterial stuff(yuck!), we do wash hands, but not crazy. I’m ok with Liv having a snack in the park after rolling around :)
    I’m definately a “no shoes in the house” parent. Lots of stuff on shoes that shouldn’t be in the home like pesticides and lead from soil etc.

    Most of my efforts to stay healthy focus on healthy eating.

    We don’t do any diary while sick and I totally cut sugar and starch (breads, crackers, potatoes, noodles). Instead I amp up the green juice/smoothies and lots of fruit and veggie soups/
    broths.

    When we get sick a cold, I am totally sold on the Hylands Homeopathic C-plus tablets. They seem to totally lessen the symptoms and duration when taken regularly from beginning to end.

    Hope you all are feeling better by now, it’s hard when it keeps going around and around the house! No fun to be sick at all :(

  34. The Fear of the NICU will make a warmonger out of the most pacifistic person.

    Wash your hands! Scrub under your nails! Ah, crap, I touched my face. WASH AGAIN!!!

    It was crazy. Luckily, I’ve made peace with the krajee germ killing tendencies and I think live with a happy medium.

    I DO believe in the hygiene hypothesis and not all dirt is bad or needs to be killed.

    I’m more conscious of some things than you are, but hey, I only have one kid. Snort.

  35. I used to be a pacifist. Then I had sick twins last winter that continuosly caught bugs. They were sick for over 2 straight months with different viruses and colds. To top it off I had a brand new baby!I started with all the antibacterial cleaners and nothing helped.

    This past cold/flu season I was more neutral. I don’t use Lysol, Clorox, or any of that chemical crap any more but we do wash our hands like crazy and I’m a neat freak. We love Mrs. Meyer’s in our house and use all of her products, cleaning and soaps.

    I should also add, I’m a germ-a-phobe. Sick kids need to be at home. Not at the store, at a playgroup,or anywhere else. Who wants to be drug around when they are sick anyways?? Seeing a snotty nose kid in a shopping cart makes me cringe for the next kid that sits there. It’s a common courtesy!

  36. Last year we where sick a lot. This year not at all. AS my nutritionist said…
    “getting sick is not always bad for them as they need to build up immunity” for us too.

    I have my girls on organic supplements basically vital nutrients that we just don’t get in our food these days. Even when it is organic.

    over all a germ pacifist-
    xo Donna

  37. I am about the same as you. But we didn’t get sick this year. At all. I think its a miracle considering I have 3 kids. Of course we started homeschooling and I’m not working so our exposure to other people has become more limited.

  38. Oh I forgot. When we get sick that person has their own box of tissues that they put in their own little trash can. I just make sure I was the dishes very good and I wash the clothes and bedding in hot water. I also will open a window in their room to help air it out. We don’t do over the counter unless the symptoms are too much to bear. Like super stuffy and can’t breath at all. Or non stop coughing at night and not getting rest. Because getting enough sleep is essential for your body to fight germs.

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  40. I thought I was a germophobe, but there are many of these things that I don’t do! I am a firm believer in hand washing (without anti-bacterial soap). We’ve had better and worse years but overall, through my whole life, I have been very healthy. I really think immune system strength is something we mostly just have, regardless of what we do. All through my school years and young-adult life I never washed hands, ate only moderately well, and never took supplements and I was very rarely sick.

    That said, times I have been more ill seem to have coincided with periods of stress/low sleep.

    As far as cleaning during illness, washing hands and cleaning surfaces with very diluted bleach are what I have done.

  41. Wash hands regularly with regular soap. Frequently wash bedsheets, towels, pyjamas with hot water when ill. Do the usual: drink a lot, hot chicken soup, vinegar socks to bring the fever down. I had that flu in January, part of it bad cold/terrible cough, part stomach bug. When it turned into pneumonia I went on antibiotics… But other than that, I don’t fuss a lot about germs or increased cleanliness. My doctor told me, to make sure and keep 1 metre’s distance from people while coughing, so I did.

  42. I struggle with this. I’d like to be a pacifist, but I have a daughter who seems particularly vulnerable to illness – and gets a worse case than everyone else when she gets it. She has turned me into a germaphobe. I do keep myself in check, but I am also unapologetic about whipping out the Lysol and Purell when there’s illness around. Hand washing and using Purell properly (which shouldn’t contribute to superbugs – it works differently than antibacterial products) is probably the most important thing and works wonders around here.

  43. Unless I KNOW it is something that has a certain cure, I’m of the rest, fluids school. I wrote a product review post on cold & flu season and most of it involves staying hydrated and having honey.

    I believe in regular hand washing throughout the day, but, like most things, I’m kinda lax about it unless someone is sick or it is a known risk (handling meat, etc.). That’s just my personality.

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  45. Erin was born prematurely and suffers (or suffered it can be hard to tell which) from chronic lung disease. She no longer needs oxygen but is still very susceptible to respiratory illnesses and is less able to fight them off. Simple things like flus can be deadly in her case.

    We’re not clean freaks in our home, I believe like you that she needs to be exposed to germs if we’re ever going to build her immune system (another thing early gestation prems often lack). We don’t buy antibacterial anything (except toilet cleaner which doesn’t seem to come in a non-antibac option). The only concession I make is hand sanitizers.

    They don’t work in the same way as other antibac products. They don’t kill germs, rather the alcohol in the gels dries and with it so does the germs. And we only use it in winter when people actually are sick.

  46. I’m trying to convince my sinus-infection prone daughter to use a neti pot. It might ward off enough troubles to keep her off antibiotics for a while. My doc recommended it; can you believe it? It’s working well for me.

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