Obsessive Compulsive Pre-K Disorder

Hi Readers! Well, I was miffed a while back about the rules against BRANCHES at the school in New Jersey. But the rules at THIS pre-k make Jersey seem like the garden state! — L

Dear Free-Range Kids: At my pre-school we can fail inspection if the children take off their jackets and put them in their cubbies before washing their hands unless we sanitize all of the cubbies afterwards. The reason being that their dirty hands would contaminate the cubbies. Never mind that those kids were just rolling in the grass in their jackets that they just touched with their now-clean hands to put away inside their cubbies!

Also if a child is playing in the sand box he must wash his hands before he can touch a bike or ball.

Also children must be directly supervised at all times even while using the bathroom. At one center I worked at, we’d send the kids in alone or in pairs from the playground to the bathroom which we could see from the playground. But at my current school, we wouldn’t dare. – Anon

93 Responses

  1. Somebody must’ve nearly had a stroke trying to decide if it was worth to send a kid into the bathroom unsupervised or require a non-parent adult to go in with them.

  2. What a great way to start everybody on their way to their first ulcers!! Too much worrying….save it for the big stuff!

  3. This is the state regulation for daycares in PA too. I let my 3 and 4 yr olds play at home upstairs unsupervised (while I’m downstairs), but at work we can get sited if I can’t physically see them from one side of the room to the other. Heaven forbid anyone goes to the bathroom by themselves. Our center got sited last year for a child having a toothbrush in their private bookbag, inside a plastic baggie,hanging on an inaccessible hook, in a locked closet. It didn’t have proper ventalation. Go figure.

  4. if one of the staffers goes with every child when they have to go to the bathroom—-do you need another staffer to come outside or is there someone specifically on bathroom duty?

  5. I can actually kind of understand the sandbox thing (at least, I’d have a reasonable rationale for it), especially with bikes. Sand is killer on the bike gears and other parts.

    I have a feeling, especially if the sandboxes are outside, that the worry is for toxoplasmosis. If there is a large stray cat population, that’s actually a pretty reasonable concern, even if the solution to it seems absurd in the grand scheme of things.

  6. After morning recess, students must wash hands to remove their jacket and place jacket immediately in facility washing machine. Students must then wash hands again to remove germs obtained from dirty jacket.

    When jacket has completed wash and dry cycles, students will wash hands again, remove jacket from dryer and place on body to go outside for afternoon recess. Same wash/dry procedures will take place after afternoon recess.

    There will be an additional $2000 fee added to daycare tuition to cover water and electricity bills, and salary for our new full-time laundress.

    Students must provide their own dye-free, fragrance-free, allergen-free detergent and fabric softener.

    Parents are responsible for maintaining their child’s detergent supply. Students with no detergent at facility must wear their jacket all day or seal it in a large garbage bag. Garbage bags must be provided by student. Parent/guardian must wash hands before signing enclosed release form acknowledging dangers of plastic garbage bags around children.

    Hands must be washed before touching any and all plastic garbage bags. All used garbage bags to go through wash/dry cycle at end of week before being placed in larger garbage bag for disposal. Hands must be washed after disposal of bagged garbage bags.

    (I really had too much fun writing this….)

  7. There’s an old saying here in the South:”You have to eat a pound of dirt before you die.” Translated, that means a little dirt won’t hurt. With my girls, I insisted they wash hands before meals, after a trip to the bathroom and if, you know, they got dirty. All this gratuitous hand-washing creeps me out. I’m not sure why we’ve become a nation of germophobes but my best argument against the trend is my kids- I can’t remember the last time we made a sick visit to the doctor. There are no allergies, no ear infections, even very little teenage acne. When will people realize that the best approach to any situation calls for moderation?

  8. Obviously, this pre-school has not heard the theory kicking around that obsessive cleanliness may be causing allergies:



    And as far as the sand pit and toxoplasmosis is concerned — Cover the darn thing when it’s not in use. It’s not rocket science, for goodness sake.

  9. And we wonder why kids these days have more allergies and get sick more often than we did. Do the people making these rules understand that they are making kids sick by killing their immune systems?

  10. I’m with Teressa Glazer and Swain on this one. Seriously, a little dirt never killed anyone. A little cat poop can actually inoculate you for life so that you can still change out a litter box later when/if you’re pregnant!
    Germs exist. Many of them are actually GOOD for us. A few of them can kill you, most live symbiotically because if we (their host) die – well… so do they.
    Get over it. This whole sanitizing the world thing is starting to cause problems even beyond the new “super germs” that are virtually unkillable. It is also causing problems in our digestion, skin and other vital functions as we kill off the germs that actually help us to live and thrive.
    Here’s to that peck of dirt we should all be eating with our breakfast!
    P.S. when I was a kid the only rule in schools was not playing with each other’s hair in case of lice. All this handwashing, sanitizing, etc. was not even a thought and we all survived just fine.

  11. The kids at my school treat hand sanitizer like a toy and I hate it. I try to enforce handwashing only at the logical times (before eating, after bathroom, after art usually – though that’s just cuz otherwise the whole classroom would be covered in paint). If I see kids going for the sanitizer, I tell them that if they want to clean up, they’re free to use soap and water at the sink. Thank God my state doesn’t enforce this stupid jacket rule – I might have to find another field of work.

    We do have an annoying rule that anyone (child or adult) doing anything related to food must wear gloves. Now, I’m not opposed to food production gloves – I used to work in a deli so I know all about that. But when we are forcing the 4 year old to put on gloves just so they can hand out napkins or clean empty cups I think it’s a little too much.

    I wish we could trust teachers common sense and good judgement a little bit.

  12. What a load of fooey. I would not send my kid to a preschool that had those rules.

  13. @Teressa – How old are your kids? I’m amazed by how often kids get sick now – but it does seem related to the excessive amount of hand washing. I worked at preschools for ~5 years in NC, and there are so many rules for when one must wash hands – before changing a diaper, after changing a diaper, after coming in from outside, when arriving in a room, before meals, after meals, before messy art, after messy art, before and after applying sunscreen, etc… I have to admit that I didn’t wash hands nearly as often as required, especially when doing sunscreen.

    Sure, I wash hands – when I cook, when I do something messy, etc. But not 15-20 times a day. I virtually never get sick. I also take very good vitamins and eat a decent diet (a little too much junk, but a lot of fruits and veggies too). It has been over 4 years since the last time I had an infection bad enough to keep me out of work (strep)/require an antibiotic. And I’m amazed by how many kids have asthma!

  14. All this hand washing is bad for kids. Our school requires hand sanitizer to enter the classroom which I really hate, the requirement is silly and all this anti bacterial stuff is dangerous they way people are using it, more and more people are seriously addicted its not right. Use soap and water people.

  15. And let’s be honest, kids come home from school and where do they put their jackets? Hung up? Puh-leeze…it gets thrown on the mudroom floor.

    I stand by Denny. Practicing basic, common sense hygiene, both myself and my kids (with their contaminated jackets) get maybe one cold a year. The most extreme thing I do during flu season is swipe the doorknobs and telephones with a Clorox wipe or even just a soapy cloth.

    Are there parents whacky enough to sue the preschool if their kid gets an ear infection?

  16. @Denny- My daughters are now 24 and 16. The draconian hand-washing rules were just getting started when the younger one was in pre-K. The only improvement I ever saw over the old ways was when kids were taught to sneeze into their elbows rather than their hands.

  17. Geez, what sort of biological weapons of mass destruction do you cultivate over there??? And at kindergartens, too!
    We must have the ordinary, garden variety germs, cause we don’t have any of those regulations (@Swain, that’s definitely going a bit over the edge!) and we have survived all sorts of infections and parasites.
    Maybe it’s because we Spaniards are such disgusting pigs after all, but the annual head lice infestation (September-October), the bouts of flu (November-February) and gastroenteritis (May-June) are regarded as normal hazards of school life.
    However, it’s true that we now have certain epidemics I never heard about when I was little. Right now, we’re befuddled about a certain “molluscum contagiosum” that doesn’t seem to cause anything but ugly small boils. Pediatricians tell us that it’s so contagious that it’s really not worth the effort of trying to erradicate it by any extraordinary means; they’ll just die on their own in several months…
    I can’t imagine anything as frustrating as taking every precaution to keep your kids out of germs’ way (as if!), and then getting them sick anyway.

  18. I’d have a really hard time believing that the sandboxes are allowed to be left uncovered and accessible to animals when not in use, so I’m not buying the toxoplasmosis thing. Could it seriously be true that they regulate handwashing *between* outdoor activities, but not sanitary measures for sandboxes?

  19. Has any research been done into whether anti-allergens (e.g. allergy shots) reduce immunity? I ask because I have a friend whose kids are ALWAYS sick (with three kids, she doesn’t go three weeks without one home from school during the winter, and she goes through spells of having someone home at least one day a week for weeks on end.) And, her kids all have fairly severe allergies, including one with life-threatening nut allergy. I’m wondering if all those shots don’t do something to overall immunity — not that there’s much choice in that case.

  20. First, toxoplasmosis is most commonly caused by food and not by cats. Second, toxoplasmosis is only really a problem for pregnant women and immunosuppressed. It’s usually asymptomatic in the general population. Even with puberty starting earlier these days, I’m guessing that the number of pregnant pre-k students is still zero. So only kids with immune issues need to worry and those can be handled on a case-by-case basis.

    I’m so glad my pre-k doesn’t have these rules. I’m gearing for battle with the school next year when I refuse to bring in the hand sanitizer that is on the school supply list.

  21. @Leslie – I’m more disturbed by the fact that the inspectors went through a child’s private backpack than I am the threat of a moldy toothbrush! 😦

  22. I remember one time I was going to piano lessons as a child and had forgotten to wash my hands after playing on the playground. They were filthy! What did I do? I licked the dirt off so the teacher wouldn’t see my dirty hands! 🙂 Believe it or not, I did live to tell the tale. The teacher subsequently sent me to the sink to wash my hands…because she didn’t want any dirt on her white piano keys! LOL!

  23. I hope they are planning ahead for all the health problems they are going to have when these kids grow up with no natural ability to deal with everyday germs.

    The other day I noticed another headline about how horrifically dirty shopping carts are. Including microscopic traces of feces! Oh horror, I may never sleep again!! Oh yeah, my kids poop too, don’t they? I practically never washed my hands when I was a kid. My kids are a little better (partly because their preschool requires handwashing after potty, etc.). None of us are dead yet. And while my kids have gotten sick a few times, they have lived through it (we did need meds for the strep though)! Perhaps one day they will be medical marvels, ha ha.

    I really don’t want my kids washing their hands all the time. It’s bad for their skin as well as their immune development. I did ask the teacher to let my kid wash without soap after she came home with a rash on her hands (they had recently switched to a cheaper, harsher soap). Teach said no, our only option was to send milder soap. So I told my kid to use as little soap as possible and rinse it off ASAP. And when we’re out & about, I usually don’t let the kids use soap when they wash hands, unless they are really gross.

  24. So, are all of these regulations part of an anti-feminist movement?

    Think about it…if you regulate daycares so much that either the providers cannot comply or refuse to try to do the silly things, then there will be no more daycares. If there are no more child care providers, then mothers can not work, because they cannot find care for their children (and we all know that fathers should not be watching the kids!) Therefore, no more working mothers!

    Women, unite! Fight back against this stupidity, and help your sisters keep their jobs and support their children (and pay taxes that pay the legislators and health departments that make these stupid rules!)

  25. Honestly, I have better things to do than to follow my 10 and 9 yo boys around asking if they washed their hands. Heck, I do a victory dance if they remember to flush the blasted toilet. Unless we are on our way to an event or I see visible mud on the fingers at the dinner table, or there is paint involved, I don’t honestly care. I taught them ‘wash your hands after going to the bathroom’ as toddlers. It didn’t stick. Not the hill I want to die on. Eventually they will get old enough to discover that girls find dirty hands unattractive and the problem will solve itself. I don’t see that they are any sicker overall than any one else, and in fact seem healthier than some.

  26. Yes, I don’t know if it’s a gender issue, but there needs to be a movement against this ridiculous, costly, and dangerous trend. How to curb it? I don’t think it’s “that bad” in my state “yet,” And hopefully they are too busy trying to stay out of bankruptcy to harass daycares nowadays. But you never know.

  27. Good Heavens! Those people better watch out. They need at least 2 adults to supervise the children while using the potty. For liability purposes, of course.

  28. My kids’ daycare has a half-door bathroom off of each classroom. The teachers do NOT “watch” the children pee. But the child isn’t exactly “alone in a room” either. I think that is just fine for preschool. The kids at 4 are just starting to get an attitude about having to smell other kids’ smells and such. (Of course, in an infant-to-KG center, you are always smelling some bodily excretion somewhere.) But I think a full, closing door (without an observer) is in order by KG.

  29. I think it’s absolutely, 100% a feminist issue. I think all of this stuff is. The reasons Cheryl W. mentions are certainly relevant – these regulations do, in fact, make it hard for people to maintain and work in day cares (and most of the people who own/work in day cares are women), and lack of decent day care is certainly a factor for women who are trying to decide whether or not to go back to work – and a major factor for women who CAN’T decide not to go back to work. But even more than that, intense scrutiny over the care of children in general, and a total lack of respect for the judgment of mothers and other primary care providers (and the assumption that they are and always should be female), is very sexist. And attempting to regulate one’s behavior with regards to increasingly insane standards – whether one resists the standards, tries to accommodate them, or a combination – expends an enormous amount of physical and emotional energy. And since these standards are mostly on women, yeah, I am totally comfortable calling all of the Free Range Kids issues feminist issues.

  30. Hmm, it would be interesting to know the most common gender of the lawmakers who introduce these laws / draft these requirements. Handwashing in preschool doesn’t seem to be a topic most guys would come up with. (I know some of you will find that a sexist comment, but I live in the real world.)

    Sometimes I think people make up rules because they need to feel more important (or justify their administrative salary). Gender aside.

  31. Can we print up t-shirts or bumper stickers with “Proud to be a lackadaisical hand-washer. Days since last sick visit: 147.”

  32. This article makes me exhausted. I can’t imagine being a daycare provider whose job it is to enforce these stupid rules. Is there time for anything else? The whole concept of “inspection” strikes me as a bit too military for toddlers. (no offense to military meant)

    Assuming I had a choice, this would be enough to make me find a new daycare.

  33. This brings to mind a friend’s book that is coming out in a couple of months.

  34. when my son went to a state licensed daycare, they were constantly citing me for the lack of clothes or diapers I had sent – yet not a single worker bothered To Look In His BackPack! I sent at least 3 pairs of socks, two pairs of pants, a spare shirt and no less than 6 diapers as well as a supply of baby wipes and diaper rash creme.

    After the third citation from them, that I found in the backpack, I turned and snarled at the worker about “checking his bloody backpack first!”

    It didn’t help. I found out during one of the last days, I was supposed to hand them a supply of diapers, not just stick it in his backpack. Yet, his backpack was also where they found his lunch and more. I swear… They were doing it just to annoy me.

  35. A half door bathroom? Why? Most kids go to bathroom by themselves at home by 4. My child has always had a full door bathroom in daycare – even as young as 2. They have been emphasizing actually closing the door since 3.

  36. When we bring our 4th graders in from recess, they are given a chance to wash their hands. At the beginning of the year I have a bunch of tattletales telling me that Jane didn’t wash her hands.

    My standard response to the kids. Well she is the one that taking a chance of getting ill.

    To the aghast adults – Well she has to eat a peck of dirt before she dies.

  37. Soil is antiseptic. Exposure to soil promotes long-term immune health. Soil is antiseptic. Fungal-derived antibiotics like penicillin are from soil microorganisms. Soil is antiseptic. These kids are absolutely going to be floored by infections and allergies when they grow up because soil promotes long-term immune health.

  38. On the half-door: I think in preschool you still have a range of kids. You still have some who will call for help with some things or goof off in the bathroom (or even pee themselves and need instructions as they change). It also allows flexibility for when they have even younger kids in the same classroom. My kids’ class is the year before pre-K so all of the kids were still 3 at first. Early and late in the day, when fewer kids are there, they combine them with several other age levels. It seems to me that this arrangement is more convenient for the teachers. They can easily check up on a kid without completely taking their attention off the rest of the group.

    My kids’ daycare is a chain – founded, owned, and managed by a local woman entrepreneur – which builds a building from the ground up at each location, to accommodate her idea of how daycares should be. This is how she decided to do bathrooms. I don’t think it’s a problem, at least at my kids’ age. I haven’t noticed if they have full doors for the older kids.

    But yeah, my kids close the door at home – when they think of it. (Hey, at least they usually flush.)

  39. When it comes to whether or not the sandboxes might be covered, not all are of a size to easily be covered. My daughter’s preschool had more of a sand pit than a sand box. You’d only be able to cover it with a large tarp. Sometimes you could tell the local rabbits had been hopping through the playground, and that would include the sand area, which they would clean as well as possible, but rabbit droppings are rather small, random and easily buried.

    Not a big deal. The kids were just told to leave those alone.

  40. How sure are we that this is true? Did anyone verify this? It sounds pretty extreme to me.

  41. German kindergartens (preschools) would all fail US health inspections. Kids spend a great deal of their time playing outside, going from the sandbox to the playhouse, to riding a bike, back to the sandbox, then to the climbing structure, back to the sandbox, then taking some of the trucks from the sandbox and playing with them on the grass, etc. You get the picture. The teachers would spend all of their time sending kids to the bathroom to wash their hands if they had to follow the rules at that US preschool. My son often came home with (horror of horrors!) dirty clothes from playing in the sandbox or the grass. Free play was more important to the kindergarten teachers than being clean and germ-free. My feeling was that getting dirty meant having fun. If my son came home dirty, that meant he had lots of fun playing outside and couldn’t be bothered to change into clean clothes. There are a lot worse things in life than muddy pants, and my son evidently felt that way too.

    German kindergarten teachers do have the kids wash their hands after using the bathroom or before having lunch. By the way, kids in German kindergarten learn where the bathrooms are on their first day and go there by themselves. The only time they are accompanied is early in the school year when a teacher is showing them where the bathroom is located. Once they know where the bathroom is, even the smallest 3-year-olds are expected to go there and “take care of business” on their own.

  42. As far as “is this true” – it may be in the manual but not in actual practice. I worked in a nursing home during college for a very short time. They gave me a manual, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who ever read it. If I had done all the things the manual required with each patient every day, I could have cared for only a handful of patients, not the 14 they assigned to me. (I only lasted 7 days in that job.) And when I worked as a carney in a food trailer, I was told where the single water test kit was kept. It had never been opened and I had no idea how to use it. The inspectors came and asked about it, and I BS’d my way through it. They told me I was supposed to use a test kit every time I washed a dish. Ha ha! Anyhoo, point being, there are rules / what we do when the inspectors are present, and then there’s what gets done the rest of the time. Of course I would rather have reasonable rules that actually get followed. But if the regulators make it impossible, who’s to blame?

  43. The other day I noticed another headline about how horrifically dirty shopping carts are. Including microscopic traces of feces! Oh horror, I may never sleep again!!

    I keep a running list of Things Which Have Been Proven To Be Filthier Than Public Toilet Seats on my journal, mostly for the heck of it. People are constantly running studies using the public toilet seat for comparison, but that’s about the cleanest thing out there. You could eat your lunch off of most public toilet seats!

    Anyway, one of them was more about fecal matter than actual germs, and the study had even found fecal matter on wrapped toothbrushes – that is, on the bristles that had been tightly wrapped up since production. As the scientist quoted said, fecal matter on everything is just one of those disgusting little facts of life you should try not to think about too much.

    And so I don’t think about it too much.

  44. Sounds crazy, but let’s not get crazy in the opposite direction. There are times when washing hands sounds reasonable: Before handling food and before surgery. And I like clean hands if you’re going to draw my blood–and that means before putting on the gloves. What good are contaminated gloves? In fact, I trust clean hands more than the gloves.

  45. I understand the sandbox to a small degree due to toxoplasmosis (but more in the wash after you are outside or at least before you eat, not before touching other items) and I understand the bathroom issue. When I was in preschool older kids molested me in the bathroom. This needs prevented.

  46. My middle son actually does not use hand sanitizer at all, it makes his skin terribly dry, red, painful and cracked. He washes his hands before lunch and puts on his own lotion. He’s in first grade now and has been doing this since last year in K.

  47. Regarding the excessive hygiene/allergy connection, I think researchers have started to come to the conclusion there is a connection. In my own highly unscientific observation, I know of several children with severe allergies to basically everything…and interestingly enough, all of them have mothers who are super-clean-freak-germophobes. As for myself and my like-minded friends who have a more relaxed attitude towards dirt and germs, none of our kids have allergies. I’m just sayin’….

  48. So do they have two adults taking the kids to the bathroom each time, because god knows if only ONE adult is present something could happen between the adult and child and then the lawsuits would come!

  49. That does sound a bit obsessive compulsive especially for a Pre-K. Hands should be washed when it is necessary not after everything we do cause washing your hands too much is also bad as well.

  50. @Sally — I posted the links to the articles about excessive cleanliness and allergies above. Regarding your post, my sister has two children with allergies, one with quite severe allergies, and she (my sister) is most definitely not a clean freak.

    This theory is intriguing, and personally, I’d love it to be true, but as far as I understand, it isn’t conclusive.

  51. I guess that school would have to quarentine my little girl as she eats dirt all the time!

  52. I think the likely result of this kind of policy, if actually followed, is that they will stop allowing the kids to do many things that trigger a handwashing drill. Meaning get rid of the sandbox or whatever.

  53. @pentamom – Generally sandboxes are too big to be covered, at least at schools I’ve worked in.

    @ Elissa – as one who’s worked in preschools, inspectors can (and will) go through everything. Since kids’ stuff is at kids’ reach, they assume kids can and wouldreach for other kids’ stuff, so little Johnny could get Susie’s toothpaste, tylenol, hand sanitizer, or whatever (and eat it).

  54. About a month ago when I was picking my 2 1/2 year old daughter up from preschool, I was given an official looking report and asked to sign that I received it. It turned out to be an inspection report, in which the school had received a gross violation citation for not always having a teacher present in the bathroom when a child was using it. Included with it was a letter from the school assuring the parents that they take this very seriously and have changed their policy to make sure this never happens again.

    Honestly, I trust the teachers at the school to use their common sense. I’m sure they would go in to help a younger newly potty trained child. But why on earth do they need to supervise a 4 year old in the bathroom? Ridiculous! I’m a big believer in giving my daughter as much freedom and responsibility as she can handle. It’s a shame that our schools aren’t even legally permitted to do the same.

  55. Yes, thanks, I suppose that makes sense.

  56. @Swain Seriously the kids jackets are washed everyday at school? that is completely crazy. I read an article awhile ago, that one’s very own kitchen sink is the place that harbors the most germs and bacteria, not public places as one would expect.

  57. “children must be directly supervised at all times even while using the bathroom.”

    I find that scarier than anything they are trying to protect against.

    How direct is this supervision? Isn’t even having an adult in the bathroom alone with a vulnerable child in a semi-dressed state- even outside the stall with the door closed- the total opposite of what you would want? Why would I want any person alone in the bathroom with my child?

  58. I’ve always felt that handwashing is a very important mechanism to teach to kids (or, rather, to everyone), but this is taking it way overboard. I mean, it’s important to wash hands before touching food/eating, after using the toilet, and after touching something wet/sticky/particularly unhygenic, but after touching sand? Before touching a jacket, or a toy? That’s just stupid.

  59. Remember that scene in Caddyshack? With the candy bar in the swimming pool? Evryone runs away screeaming thinking it is something else. The administrator of this pre-school must have been traumatized by that movie scene as a small child and has been obsessively cleaning up the entire world since!

  60. It all sounds like training for an obsessive/ compulsive disorder – or germ phobia.
    What do they do about children with hand eczema?

  61. I bet they use antibacterial soap too. Ugh.

  62. It’s amazing the human species did not die out before Purel came along. LOL.

  63. Gary, it is not the director of the day care that wants to do this. It is the rules of the state that require it. The director and the staff would much prefer to not have to do all this silliness. Wash hands after using the bathroom, wash hands before eating. Good enough.

  64. I wouldn’t want them washing my kid’s jacket every single day. How long will the jacket last? Are they going to buy new ones for every child after they wore them out by washing them 20 times a month?

  65. FYI – I’m pretty sure the person who posted about washing jackets daily was being sarcastic!

  66. On my recent 18 month world trip in mostly underdeveloped countries, washing your hands a lot (or at all sometimes) was not practical / available. Some travelers I met used sanitizer frequently; I didn’t. In Africa, we would go days without hot water and rarely saw soap. It was a very dirty trip, pitching tents every day on dirt for 70 days straight. Sprayed some Dettol (alcohol) on hands before preparing meals for other people, and that was about it. Dishes were even washed in cold water most of the time and thrown back in the same racks that were never washed. Nobody was sanitizing before passing around community bags of chips, etc. on a daily basis. You might buy some fruit, rinse it with a little water from your water bottle, cut with a dirty knife that’s wiped on your pants, eat it with dirty hands… In all that travel thru Asia, India, Africa, Nepal and such, my wife and I got mild food poisoning a couple times and maybe caught one cold each. Seriously – If you saw the public squat toilet situations we dealt with daily and the dirt and grime we had all over us in Africa, you’d never believed we stayed healthy. I could probably point out 30 “germ” violations a day per person on parts of that trip.

    Now – here’s the twist. Before leaving on this trip and since coming back, my wife has always been highly susceptible to food poisoning. Her most serious bouts with it have been in the U.S. and Ireland. My theory – while traveling, we were exposed to small amounts of germs every day and the immune system gets exercised. In the U.S., you get exposed to very little, so when faced with a big dose, you have a big reaction.

    The only real health problem I had was from ignoring an open wound on my ankle (scuba diving mishap) and then trekking through some Thailand jungle (including streams) for 3 days. Something got in the wound and it took some work to get the wound to heal. Lesson learned from being a little too lackadaisical after 17 months of body toughening travel.

  67. I am a fan of clean hands. However… Usually only after bathroom events. I rarely think of washing my hands any other time, but as I am s post-potty stickler, I figure I’m good. I rarely get sick. When teaching, I had the kids wash after the bathroom, of course, and before lunch–and I think it was more because I view pre-meal washing as “proper” than anything. I also am not a big believer in unnecessary band-aids, so I taught my kids to just wash mild cuts/scrapes. If a student felt they needed to wash hands at other times, well, there was a sink in the classrrom and 1st grade is old enough to start considering your personal hygeine needs.

    As for the sandbox… I think any disease would be a freak chance sans a noticeable need for precautions. Beaches aren’t covered. Fields aren’t covered. Farms and woods and backyards aren’t covered!!! If a kid is properly appreciating nature, well, poop happens. I still remember when a field trip taught my students to refer to animal poop in nature as scat. They LOVED it and would tell me about scat they would see in their neighborhoods. No increased sick days.

  68. Lol!!! This is serious?!?! I have to admit this slightly resembles how I raised my first born…until I had the second!

  69. Oy, just crazy. I agree with the others that all this excessive sanitizing is what is causing all these kids with allergies and constantly sick. My kids are 10, 9, 8, almost 5 and 8 months and being “sick” for them is a mild cold which they get a few times a year. They’ll get a runny/stuffy nose, scratchy throat and maybe a mild cough. They’re better in a few days with minimal medication (usually just for comfort before bed) in a few days.

    My oldest is the only one that has ever had an ear infection (2 summers ago from swimming). My older son is the only one to ever have the flu (at Halloween in 2009–he had just turned 8). My youngest 3 have NEVER seen a doctor for anything except well visits (shots and we’re usually late on those, sometimes by a whole year).
    We don’t have sanitizer in the house and they rarely wash their hands. Probably only if I notice how dirty they are and MAKE them before we eat. Otherwise they wouldn’t think of it. My 9yo son is notorious for coming in from spending all day outside and digging into his food with visible dirt covering his hands. GROSS! They are the healthiest kids I know in the whole world.

    I wonder what all these sanitized preschoolers will do in grade school? Then again, I suppose they will have similar crazy rules for the older kids. At my kids school…I don’t know what rules they have about sanitizing but my kids come home covered in dirt and mud almost every day. They go out for recess 3 times a day even when it’s raining (which is all the time in Washington) so every day their shoes are muddy, the bottoms of their pants are covered in dirt/mud, their jackets are dirty from being on the slides and rolling on the ground. Doesn’t bother me at all. I’m glad they come home dirty. My washer/dryer isn’t so happy about it, though, lol.

  70. I know that any child with a skin condition like mine will be in massive pain if forced to follow this policy.

    I remember being between 4th and 5th grades. I was in a summer science program. We went to Natural Bridge Caverns. Coming back to Houston, we stopped at Franks’ in Schulenburg for dinner.

    My Mom heard me screaming in the bathroom and rushed in. One of the chaperons had been trying to force me to wash my hands with soap. Soap I knew from experience would burn the top layer of skin off. (This was from one of those powder soap dispensers not a liquid soap dispenser.)

    Long before baby wipes and hand sanitizers, Dad’s company put (Pearl Beer) put out these picnic packets that had plastic ware, napkin, salt, pepper and acholol wipe.

    Mom used to keep them in her purse for me to use instead of soap in public bathrooms. I had actually used one before the chaperon physically tried to force me to use the soap. Mom ripped into the woman – and she never came near me again for the remaining time her daughter and I were in school together.

    That said – don’t condemn all of us that use hand sanitizers. They do less damage to my skin than soap commonly available in public bathrooms.

  71. I am a preschool teacher and the whole hand-washing / bathroom drama is beyond maddening. We do not have facilities in our room, which means, we are tromping down to that bathroom 1000 times a day. All that time spent walking and washing hands could be time spent learning, doing and creating! Also, I’m supposed to be doing small groups and individual pull-out instruction all day, but since the classroom assistant is constantly providing bathroom escort service -who’s supposed to watch the rest of the kids? (class size is a minimum of 20) Soooooo frustrating. We were recently audited by our governing body, and not ONE item on the audit list had anything to do with ensuring that developmentally appropriate EDUCATION was happening. Grrrr… And the irony? Once they get to Kindergarten, all this phooey goes out the window. They could not wash their hands for months and no one would notice. CRAZY. (and this is our tax dollars at work)

  72. To those who are writing you agree with the too much cleanliness is a bad thing (and may be causing allergies), and in the next sentence stating that your kids never get sick: The correlation, I believe, between too much cleanliness and rise in allergies is postulated in the belief that children are not getting sick ENOUGH. The body is no longer getting as many infections as it used to, and therefore is lacking the “workout” it used to get.

    So, if this theory is to be believed — it may not necessarily be such a great thing that a child rarely gets sick.

    Although, when we considered what children in underdeveloped countries are likely to have to go through, maybe allergies isn’t such a bad trade off (given the theory’s correct, of course).

  73. For me, reading the posted letter, all I could think was, “Won’t the cuffs of their jacket sleeves get wet? And in turn, won’t that mean they can’t go outside later, because their jacket are wet?” Dumb.

    And @ tuppence…
    I think the correlation isn’t that kids aren’t getting sick enough, but aren’t having enough exposure to germs.

  74. “The correlation, I believe, between too much cleanliness and rise in allergies is postulated in the belief that children are not getting sick ENOUGH. The body is no longer getting as many infections as it used to, and therefore is lacking the “workout” it used to get.”

    That is not my understanding of the correlation at all. My understanding is that the body isn’t getting exposed to as many germs and is not getting the workout it used to. Exposure to germs does not equal sickness. As a matter of fact, in a healthy immune system, exposure to germs should rarely equal sickness. The immune system should be able to handle most germs before they impact the host. Humans used to be exposed to millions of different germs a day but only a few a year snuck through the immune defense to make people sick. Now we super clean our world and the immune system doesn’t know what to do. It gets hyper responses to things (allergies), it attacks friendly cells (autoimmune diseases) and allows more to get past it’s defenses. In actuality, kids who have allergies generally have more sickness. The individuals immune system doesn’t know how to respond.

    And for all those saying “my kids have allergies and I’m not a clean freak” or “I’m a clean freak and my kids are never sick,” this is a multigenerational problem. Immune systems and the tendency to be allergic (not the allergens themselves but the tendency to have an allergy to something) is inherited. Just because you are not super clean doesn’t mean that someone in your family tree wasn’t, leading to allergies and the trait being passed down. It is a lot more complicated than clean = allergies. But there is a correlation between cleanliness and the causation of allergies in the general population (but maybe not on each individual level) and, theory being, if we stop super cleaning our world the general human immune system will eventually right itself again.

  75. Are people really more allergic to stuff now than they were a century ago? People a century ago really didn’t have much of a way to deal with things like pollen, so why complain? Now we have ways to deal with it, and I hear more complaints than I did as a kid.

    Food allergies to shellfish, nut and bees? Well, sorry to say they may have ended up in the local cemetery. But, were they any less common than now? Accounting of course for globalization that allows populations that for a huge number of generations did not eat certain food to now have access to stuff like peanuts. I would also be interested in if certain populations that had certain religious prohibitions to foods like shellfish are more allergic – not because they are not exposed, but because of genetics, and the rules made actually protect the population.

    Ok, all off topic, I know.

  76. Never thought of that Cheryl. Maybe shellfish allergies were always super-common, it’s just that people living inland would never find out that they’re allergic to it.

  77. Are people really more allergic to stuff now than they were a century ago?


    Allergy rates are increasing.

    Our immune systems are an interesting parallel to helicopter parents, actually.

    Now that we’ve made sufficient healthcare and hygiene advances, we in the western world have largely run out of real viral or bacterial threats to our health – so, our bodies find new, harmless things to freak out about… just because it’s human nature to need something to freak out about.

  78. Interesting thought, Cheryl W.

  79. I’m not sure about the allergy connection (though it seems to explain a lot). But even if the allergy connection is debunked, I still want my kids to go out and play and be a part of the world. And I would not trade the avoidance of a few inconvenient illnesses for a free-range childhood. If I say my kids hardly ever get sick, I don’t mean they have never had a runny nose. They get bugs and fight them off, usually without getting a “fever,” and almost always without meds; hence I consider them to be healthy. I am not afraid of exposing them to the germs of whoever recently touched our grocery cart or is sitting next to them at the doc’s office. Of course they might catch a bug every day of the week – and they probably do – most of them overcome before they even register on my mom-o-meter. What would be sad is keeping them away from stuff because the sniffles or occasional diarrhea are considered unacceptable risks.

  80. As I was reading this, my daughter (2.5) was playing outside with the dog, running back in the house to take a couple bites of pizza, running back out in the yard to play in the dirt and throw sticks, back in the house for more pizza, back outside to color with sidewalk chalk, back for more pizza… It honestly didn’t occur to me to try and make her wash her hands, or sit down to one or the other activity. It’s finally getting to good weather, and she’s been cooped up all winter. I’d let her just take the pizza outside, but then the dog would eat it.

  81. This is so true! a majority of daycares are being intimidated by regulations to do things that aren’t even remotely useful for anything other than serving to terrify kids and staff. Our children are required to wash hands when switching activities, and must be supervised by visually, auditorily, and be in clear sight at all times, Even when in the bathroom. Where kids used to be able to go themselves, now they are not even allowed to close the stall door (4 and 5 year olds) for fear they will *gasp* close the latch! and then, staff can’t supervise them! (Since when did peeing become dangerous?)

  82. My husband and I used to try to come to the US through the green card lottery – no such luck. Now that we have kids and I read all this, I’m actually pretty happy this never worked out. I’m glad I’m in europe and my kids get to bi dirty 😀 Totally agree with you, sue – thats exactly how its like in my sons kindergarden!
    I just posted about our last “Free range vacation”, btw – I’m always happy if people comment *hint, hint*

  83. In regarding to what Veelana wrote about the US not being so appealing after hearing about how children have to live there.

    A Polish woman I know, after learning of some of the things that go on (like no recess at schools), said: My whole life I always believed the US would be the best place to live, but with what I’m hearing about the way they treat children, I don’t think so anymore.

    So, on top of everything else wrong with not free-ranging children, it’s also very bad PR.

  84. I feel so sad for the children. They are learning OC behavior. And these adults don’t even realize the damage they are doing. There really should be a law against this. After all, how is physical abuse any different from mental. And teaching kids this obsessive behaviors is a form of mental conditioning. And if it will be detrimental to them as they grow up, it’s abuse.

  85. Yes, I agree with others who think Tuppence may have it backwards.

    Getting sick is never a good workout for the body. When you actually get sick, you actually get weakened, which includes your immune system. Actually getting sick is a sign that your immune system is close to being overwhelmed. A healthy immune system recovers, but is not “strengthened” (except with respect to a specific pathogen, in the case of some viruses.)

    However, constant minimal exposure *without* getting sick is like a workout. Your antibodies stay in an active, but not besieged, state.

    It’s like the difference between exercising, and spraining a muscle. It’s wrong to say that spraining a leg makes it heal, which makes it even stronger. Things don’t get stronger after they heal from damage. At best, they’re close to status quo ante; more often, they’re at least slightly permanently damaged.

    But exercising, which is a continual exertion of the muscle insufficient to cause it damage, strengthens it.

  86. Okay. Here’s another article. I hope THIS one makes the theory clear:


    Y’alls version of things sounds like wishing thinking. Just sayin.

  87. I guess I should be specific: Please note the word INFECTION in the title of the article. Okay, now bring on the “infection doesn’t mean getting sick” comments, you know you’re dying to! ; )

  88. The very next time I read a blog, Hopefully it doesn’t fail me just as much as this one. After all, I know it was my choice to read, however I actually thought you’d have something interesting to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something you could fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.

  89. The next time I read a blog, I hope that it won’t disappoint me as much as this one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read through, however I actually thought you’d have something useful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something that you could possibly fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.

  90. I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The issue is something not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy I came across this during my search for something relating to this.

  91. I quite like looking through a post that will make men and women think. Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!

  92. I suppose we have to start them young. Singapore is also very vigilant when it comes to kid’s hygiene especially HFMD. As long as precausions are taken fast and well, no impending epidemic. Parents and School teachers and staff play the most important roles. Authorities and media helps to remind I suppose.

  93. I absolutely love your blog.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you develop this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m looking to create my own website and want to know where you got this from or what the theme is named. Many thanks!

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