Germaphobes may have been right all along

Sandra learns the hospital may not be the best place to take her sick child

By Sandra E. Martin
Germaphobes may have been right all along

My little one has been sick all week: High fever, not easily controlled by little-kid doses ibuprofen or acetaminophen, scary-looking chills and absolutely uncharacteristic droopiness. Fearing the flu, my husband took her to the doctor on Monday, when he was home with her. The verdict: probably a virus, possibly strep. A swab was performed, a just-in-case prescription written, and father and daughter returned home — where my little one promptly crashed on the sofa at 5 p.m. She hasn't napped that late in the day since she was a baby.
Fast forward to Tuesday, when I worked from home to be with her. Same deal with the fever: She'd seem OK for a while, then it would creep up alarmingly, spiking at 105°F. After taking two bites of dinner, my poor girl asked, "Can I go to bed now?" It wasn't even 6 p.m.
"Maybe we should take her to the hospital," my husband wondered aloud. I argued for giving it until morning, secretly thinking: "The hospital ER is full of germs! The last thing that little girl needs is to be exposed to another illness!"
Yes, I am a germaphobe. A card-carrying, paper-towel-sheathed-public-washroom-door-opening germaphobe. And if you're similarly germ-averse, join me in feeling slightly smug over a recent study that found health care workers who wear exam gloves when they're with patients did not wash their hands before or after the patient visit 60 percent of the time. (The Globe and Mail reported on the study Wednesday.)
Grosser still, the study found that the snapping action of removing exam gloves could cause germ-laden liquid to "back spray" onto them.
This is hardly the first time germs in the healthcare system have been reported on. Last year, for instance, a CBC story on superbugs noted that every year 250,000 of us pick up an infection while in the hospital. My dad would call that "going in sick and coming out sicker."
But, like I said, I'm a germaphobe. What I'd like to know is: Do you worry about germs in your family's everyday encounters? Do you worry about them in doctor's offices and hospitals?

This article was originally published on Nov 10, 2011

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