Being a Germaphobe. And a Parent.

Have you heard the latest illness that could terrify a germaphobe parent like myself?

Enterovirus — EV-D68

It’s that rare respiratory virus you might have read about in your Facebook feed. The one that starts like your garden variety cold, then quickly ramps up to respiratory distress and could land your child in medical care. It’s particularly threatening to children who struggle with asthma.  And it’s popping up in the Midwest, including the state in which my children reside.

I hate seeing stuff like this.

Not because I empathize with the kids who are ill, but because it sets off all those bells and whistles in my head that make me want to douse our home and our children with sanitizer.

My kids do not have asthma, and they’re relatively healthy.  I should have no reason to worry.

And yet, I do. I find myself flocking to those stories like a Real Housewife to an open bar.

Parenthood is already ripe for worry enough. Is my child happy? Is my child developing normally? Will my child do okay socially? Will my child be free from bullies? Will the world be a better or worse place from them a decade from now?

Will my child need therapy later from all of the stuff I bring to the table as a parent?

Slap on health scares like this, and it’s almost enough to send me over the edge.

I get it. Kids are petri dishes. This is not the first time we’ve faced weird bugs, and it certainly won’t be the last. So, I need to get over it.

I don’t know when I got all weird about illness. I think it was dormant when I was single, but now that I have children and love them to pieces, I just don’t want to see them suffer.

So, when I read news stories like this, instead of blowing stuff like this off as a “hmmm…that’s interesting,” I let tiny bubbles of panic float around in the back of my mind. Every now and then, one of those bubbles will pop, and my mind will give in to those thoughts of worry.

Like, “Is my son sniffling too much?” or “Why is she coughing all of a sudden? WHY IS SHE COUGHING?”

And then, I catch myself. I tell myself to calm down. If my kids are truly sick, my mother’s instinct will tell me. In the meantime, I need to dial back the freak factor a few notches.

I know deep down that it does no good to worry about something that is out of my control. I also know that my kids don’t need that type of phobic parent, and I don’t want them to become germaphobes either.

All I can do is encourage my kids to wash their hands regularly and hope that all of the surfaces they’ve ever licked has helped to build a healthy immune system.

And perhaps I should disable my news notifications.

After I wipe down my phone, of course.


  1. Worrying seems to be a permanent part of our job description of parents!
    You can’t control the virus, but you can control the environment in which you live, and you can teach your children about hygiene (to help prevent germ spread in general), and really that is all we can do.
    Alison recently posted…Dear BabiesMy Profile

    • I know, the worrying never stops, right? And even though I teach my kids about the importance of washing their hands, I know they’re not always going to do it. Thanks for the wise words!

  2. Mr. R got sick the weekend this thingie came out. A fever and a horrible cough. I looked up the states it had hit. Of course ours was on the list. I did panic for a minute, before realizing he was not wheezing and rarely showed asthmatic symptoms. But boy mom-viligance takes hypochondria to a whole new level, doesn’t it? If you find a good hazmat suit or after school Silkwood shower, let me know.

    • Oh no, Keesha! I hope he feels better? My son had a pretty rough chest cold for a few days, and I’m hoping maybe that is the extent to which we come in contact with this yuckiness. And yes, I’m WAY more of a hypochondriac now that I’m a parent. Those folks in Asia who walk around with masks? Yeah, I get that. I totally get that.


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