talking about germs

Maybe I’m just sensitive to this because I have OCD and I don’t want my daughter to follow in my non-crack-stepping-on footsteps, but Clementine asked me about germs tonight and I didn’t know what to tell her. I forget what the exact question was, but it was something like, “Are there germs on me, and what do they look like?” I was on my way to my computer to try to find some images of germs, and maybe a few videos showing how they spread, when I thought better of it. (Having one compulsive hand-washer in the family, it occurred to me, wastes enough water.) So, I did what any good father would do in the same situation – I distracted her with a game of Candyland. I know she’ll ask again, though, and I want to be ready… So, how do you tell a three year old that, yes, they are covered with tiny, disgusting creatures that they can’t see, but, no, it’s not something they really need to worry about? Is there a children’s book out there that explains what germs are, and why they’re important, without going too far? If not, I want to write a book called, “Yes Germs Can Kill You, But Don’t Be Scared… You’d Also Be Dead without Them.”

[Speaking of The Germs.]

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  1. mark
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    OK, I found this, which is alright. It’s probably still a bit too advanced for a three year old though.

  2. degutails
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    without germs, your body wouldn’t function. and they’re beautiful. ok – i was trained as a microbiologist, so i’m biased, but, really, they are. try this site to show her some cool photos:

    with my kids, i stick to how helpful most bacteria are, and tell them to wash their hands after going to the bathroom so they don’t make everybody sick.

    for what it’s worth…


  3. John on Forest
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    I agree meredith (degree in biomedical sciences here).

    Mark, it’s really in the definition of “germ”. If you mean all micro-organisms, then read meredith again. But maybe you mean harmful microbes when you say “germ”. In that case, I’d advise you to tell clementine that there are very few of them crawling on her, and that a daily bath, tooth care, and washing hands after toileting and before preparing food is generally sufficient.

  4. frenchfries
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    So-called “germs” are not just necessary, by numbers they constitute the bulk of you. There are 10 times more non-human cells in a human body than there are “human” ones. You are a scaffold for microorganisms. So washing your hands only deals with the miniscule number (realtive to the hoardes inside your body) that reside on the surface.

  5. Posted January 9, 2008 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure all this talk about your body teeming with germs is very comforting to you, Mark. Maybe you need to cuddle up with a Giant Microbe for comfort.

    You can get Clementine one, too – it’ll be educational. In order to maximize her comfort level, I suggest going with one that she can identify with alliteratively.

  6. KT
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    What next? Will you be telling her about hotel room bedspreads?

  7. Dirtgrain
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    What will you teach her about public restrooms? What technique do you use in covering the toilet seat with toilet paper before using it (simple three-piece u-shape, or a more complex five-piece open pentagon, or something even more advanced)? Or do you tell her to avoid public restrooms at all costs?

    I think I have some OCD. When I read, I always keep an eye out for lines that have exactly ten words in them. I then mentally remark, “Oh, ten words.” Then I keep reading. It’s driving me crazy, and I can’t stop doing it. Do OCD people do this?

  8. kez
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    mark, didn’t you know that showering three times (minimum) daily removes all traces of these so-called skin germs.

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