It’s not a secret that kids are basically adorable little germ factories. If you’ve ever spent time in the average kindergarten class, you will see those grubby little germsters stick their hands into every crack & crevice of their body -and I do mean EVERY SINGLE ONE- and then use those defiled hands to touch anything within their reach. It’s not pretty.
Now I’m not a germaphobe, but when you stop to consciously think about how we’re literally teeming with microbes day in & day out, it’s a fairly revolting thought.
I enjoy a hotel stay as much as the next person, but have you ever seen the shows where they take a blacklight to a hotel room and expose the…uh…fluids that are present everywhere? You either choose to ignore it, or you wear a Hazmat suit to bed before pulling up the comforter. In that case, ignorance is bliss (or at least denial is)!
One mom decided to perform a little experiment to see just how much bacteria the average child can accumulate on his or her hand. And the results will make you want to consider that Hazmat suit after all.
Tasha Sturm, a microbiology lab tech at Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA, often assists students in testing how much bacteria is on everyday items such as their cell phones, their keys, etc. Because the reality is, as we all well know, germs exist pretty much everywhere even if we’re not thinking about it.
I bet NOW you’re thinking about it, though… Go wash your hands. We’ll wait.
Sturm was inspired by her work to check out the bacteria on her own kid’s hands. One morning before school she instructed her 8-year-old son to go play outside in the yard for ten minutes, & to pet the family dog. When he returned, she had him place his hand in a sterile Petri dish, and let the results incubate for roughly one week at room temperature.
Do you want to SEE just how much bacteria the average kid carries on his or her hands? (You probably don’t. I mean, maybe you do, but once you see it, you’ll want to bleach your eyes. Maybe literally.)
YUP. The color-by-number horror show above is a vast collection of the various microbes that hitched a ride on the 8-year-old’s hands into the Petri dish of doom.
What are we even looking at? According to Sturm, it’s a big old soup of typical microbes, as she explained to Today:
the large white circle in the bottom right of the photo was Bacillus, which is commonly found in dirt. Some of the other white spots may be staph, or Staphylococcus, she said, while the yellow and orange spots may be yeast.
Dirt, staph, yeast… a whole cornucopia of nasty. In case that wasn’t enough of a treat for you, here’s a closeup shot of the bacillus:
Ah, yes. I’m pretty sure I grew that in a sippy cup of milk that was accidentally left behind the couch for three months. Delicious!
But most kids love scientific experiments like this, and Sturm’s son is no exception.
His reaction to the germ test was pretty typical of an 8-year-old boy:
He said, ‘that’s cool!’
Or hot… as in, a hot zone of germs. Germs that have met other germs, fallen in love & gotten married. And have had baby germs, & created a village to live happily ever after in. It’s a SOCIETY of germs, people. And we’re all toting these communities around, more or less (some of us more, because KIDS).
And kids and germs go together like… I’d say soap and water, but many kids aren’t familiar with that germ-busting pair. How many times have you had to tell your child, “Wash your hands!”? If your kids are anything like mine, it’s not enough to hear the water running & to assume the job is being done. When your kid claims to wash his or her hands, the next question should always be:
(And if your kids are anything like mine, they’ll head right back in to wash again, because they thought wetting the hands would suffice. Soap has a scent for a reason, kiddo. It’s for me to check your work, you germy gangster.)
But although the microbe picture might be gag-inducing, it’s also way more common than you probably expect; the microbes featured are of the everyday variety. They are all around us, all the time.
Isn’t that comforting? Take a moment to think of everything in your house that your kids (and yourself, probably to a lesser extent, because SOAP) touch. Now visualize these colorful germ dots springing up on literally every surface -your counter. The sink faucet. The remote control. Your FACE.
There aren’t enough Clorox Wipes out there to wipe out that germ village permanently- they’re hereeeee! And here to stay, because microbes are just a fact of life.
As Sturm explains:
It’s normal stuff that we’re exposed to every day. The skin protects us from a lot of the bad stuff out there.
Does anyone else want way more skin right about now? Because if that picture is the “good” stuff, I don’t even want to know what the “bad” stuff looks like.