The 6 Dirtiest Places Kids Go Every Day

Jodi Meltzer | Oct 2, 2014 Big Kid

It's beginning to look a lot like germ season. Kids head back to school, the weather turns, cold season hits, and ... boom! ... germs galore. For moms especially, germs play a starring role in our lives. We nag our kids to wash their hands. We keep hand sanitizer at home, in our handbags ... even on our key chains. We wipe everything down even when we're exhausted because we are all about preventing illness. 

"It's not unusual for kids to get eight colds a year," says Josephine Dlugopolski-Gach, MD, FAAP, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Loyola University. "I have to remind moms that this is a completely normal immune system response. To fight germs, wash your hands and your kids' hands frequently. Cover coughs or sneezes, preferably with a tissue that should be thrown away immediately, or with your elbow if none are available. And stay home if your kids are sick."

Besides knowing how to deal with germs, we have to know where they lurk (a mom's job is never-ending). We've compiled a list of six of the Dirtiest Places in Kids' Lives ... and some germ hideouts may surprise you. 

Have you ever considered the germ possibilities of #4?

dirtiest places kids find germs

Image © KidStock/Blend Images/Corbis; © ChiccoDodiFC/Shutterstock

  • Schools


    Image © JLP/Jose L. Pelaez/Corbis

    Kids are in close quarters in school. They pick their noses, put things in their mouths, and skip washing their hands when teachers aren't looking. And yeah, germs party it up during recess. According to a study by the University of Arizona, school cafeteria tables are filthy! Best thing you can do for school is stay current with immunizations and make de-germing the priority when they get home.

    "Have your children wash their hands as soon as they walk through the door and consider having them change into 'home clothes,'" says Dlugopolski-Gach. "This is especially beneficial if you have a young infant at home."

  • Sandboxes


    Image © Jill Giardino/Blend Images/Corbis

    When kids play in sandboxes, they get dirty and germy. Studies show sandboxes have the highest levels of bacteria on the playground. You can thank food scraps, dirty diapers, bugs, and cats using them as litter boxes for the contamination. Keep the hand sanitizer at the ready, but de-germing shouldn't stop there.

    "Hand sanitizers are a quick playground fix, but they're not a substitute for soap and water," says Dlugopolski-Gach. "Have your kids sing the 'ABC' song while washing so their hands are cleaned thoroughly."

  • Bathrooms


    Image © Strauss/Curtis/CORBIS

    Bathrooms are a hot bed for germs, but toilets aren't the biggest offenders. Turns out something that's supposed to keep kids healthy -- toothbrushes! -- are way worse. Studies show that little droplets of contaminated water settle in the toothbrush bristles when people flush the toilet ... and then your kids brush. Gross. If clean mouths are your goal, keep toothbrushes out of the bathroom -- or at the very least, put away in a medicine cabinet or drawer.

    Toothbrushes aren't the only bathroom offenders either. "Some people have bath mats that grow yeast and bacteria," says Dlugopolski-Gach. "And a lot of kids have toys in the bathtub full of bacteria from the stagnant water inside of them. Moms should bleach the bathtub toys every couple of weeks and let them air dry."

  • Refrigerators


    Image © Sven Hagolani/Corbis

    One of the first things kids do when they get home is raid the fridge, but there are a lot of germs lurking on the shelves. Leaky meat packages, mold, and ripe dairy items (we have all spilled some sour milk) create a bacteria frenzy. Who knew an innocent search for a snack could expose your kids to Salmonella or norovirus? To protect them, clean your fridge thoroughly and regularly.

  • Pet Areas


    Image via 68/Norah Levine Photography

    Kids love their pets. They're awesome, of course (some dogs really help you get dinner on the table by keeping them occupied) ... but pets also come with tons of germs. According to the CDC, pet toys and pet food harbor salmonella and tons of other bacteria. Those germs are passed back and forth between your dog and child ... and playtime often ends with a slobbery kiss! It's important to keep pet areas clean and remind kids to wash their hands after playing fetch with Spot.

  • Indoor Playgrounds


    Image via © Zero Creatives/Corbis

    Arcades, play spaces, movie theatres, and malls all have two things in common: They attract tons of kids and they're dirty. You will find all types of bacteria on shopping carts, handrails, video game controllers, elevator buttons, clothes racks ... everywhere

    "It's inevitable that they're going to touch these things," says Dlugopolski-Gach. "We are always subjected to bacteria and viruses. Our bodies are constantly creating a new immune system because we're fighting them every day."

    To fight back, Dlugopolski-Gach suggests limiting your kids' exposure to indoor playgrounds if it's a particularly bad flu season. If you know your child has a weakened immune system or has asthma, keep them home. Exposing them may be a recipe for hospitalization. 

    And based on all the advice we've already heard, I'll go out on a limb here too and say if and when you MUST go to an indoor playground, wash hands -- before, during, after. Scrub up and stay safe out there!