Special Needs Sunday: Germaphobia

27 Sep
Photo by invisible monsters

Cold and flu season is rapidly approaching.  Again.  Sigh.  The last two winters have been long ones.  We officially declared a quarantine and hibernation that lasted from October through April.  We talked to family and friends and asked them to be extra vigilant about not coming to visit if they thought they were coming down with or might have been exposed to something, and everyone was wonderfully understanding (except for one friend who declared that I was too paranoid and babying Jenna too much. Ugh.).  We rarely left the house.  Both years, we thought we made it through relatively uneventfully, only to have a scare with pneumonia and respiratory issues at the “tail end” of the season.  We probably started getting lazy as a result of our restlessness coupled with some false security from the previous healthy months.

We do all of this for multiple reasons.  Jenna’s Chronic Lung Disease means that she is much more susceptible to any respiratory illness.  A common cold rapidly evolves into frightening struggles to breath and long, stressful nights for everyone.  This past spring, this led to a hospital stay for pneumonia.  Couple that problem with the added risks from her intestinal issues and diagnosis of Failure to Thrive, and you have a recipe for disaster.  Sickness often results in some weight loss for kids, and Jenna just can’t afford to lose ANY.  Common stomach or intestinal viruses could have disastrous consequences. Is there any question about where my germaphobia came from??

I’m constantly thinking about the germs covering surfaces in public places.  I watch what Jenna touches and follow behind her with hand sanitizer and wipes.  We always use a shopping cart cover when we’re out shopping.  I frantically try to keep her hands out of her mouth.  I watch other children at playdates and activities to assess for any signs of illness or possible impending illness, and quickly whisk Jenna away from any risk.  All this, while I try not to make HER too paranoid.  I try to police the germs calmly and nonchalantly in the hope that cleanliness will become second nature to her without becoming an obsession.

Side note: Take a moment to imagine a newly potty trained toddler who is FASCINATED with toilets.  Now imagine you are out & about, and nature calls (quite urgently) for that little toddler.  You rush to the public restroom only to have the toddler exclaim in glee at the pretty potty and proceed to caress it as well as the walls of the stall and the toilet paper dispenser, only to be momentarily distracted by the wonder of the door latch that she insists on fiddling with.  Yeah.  This situation practically makes my head explode.

Anyway, I thought I’d share some of the things we do to combat germs in our everyday lives.  Keep in mind that in the winter, our “combat” largely equals avoidance (i.e., hibernation and quarantine), but these are things we do throughout the year.

  • We wash our hands as soon as we come in the door no matter where we were.
  • In cold and flu season we post signs that remind about hand washing.
  • Keep hands and toys out of Jenna’s mouth.  NOT easy.
  • In the winter, you won’t find us at churches, stores, restaurants or sporting events.  Incidentally, churches and sporting events are among the worst for germ-spreading due to the seating in such close proximity (e.g., if someone behind you sneezes, there’s just no way to avoid the germs headed your way).

This year, Jenna’s breathing is much better, she’s healthier in general, and she’s finally gained some weight.  We’re considering being a little less strict with our quarantine and hibernation.  For example, she’s enrolled in a KinderMusik class (which she LOVES) with 9 other kids through December (one day a week).  We just plan to whisk her right out of there if another kiddo starts sneezing or hacking all over the place.  You might also see us at a restaurant now and then, but we’ll probably request a table in a corner when possible, and, again, might make a hasty exit if our germ-radar alarms.  🙂


Posted by on September 27, 2008 in Jenna, Special Needs


2 responses to “Special Needs Sunday: Germaphobia

  1. Marinka

    September 28, 2008 at 9:46 am

    That is so scary, I totally understand your germaphobia. I hope that this cold/flu season is very uneventful for you and that you all stay healthy.

  2. psychmamma

    September 28, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Marinka –
    Thanks! At the very least, I’m not going into it with as much fear this year. We’re hoping for the best.


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