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My almost 3 year old nephew keeps touching the floor, dusty corners, door mats and other generally not too clean things around the house. We do try to always keep a watch on where his hands are going, but a split second is enough for him to dirty them. (He doesn't respond to a "No" either, if you want to stop him, you've to physically do so). And then we wash his hands. And repeat.

Its worse when this happens in the middle of nibbling some snacks. He's at an age where he wants to eat everything on his own instead of being fed. He has a bite, runs around and touches some dirty stuff, and comes back for the next bite. Even if we wash his hands then, the same cycle is going to repeat before the next bite.

I'm not sure washing hands every 10 minutes is efficient or healthy, specially during the cold seasons. We do keep the house as clean as possible, but there's always an errant corner or doormat.

a) Should we not care too much about the dirty hands and eating with them? We haven't had many cases of an upset stomach.. But I don't know if its because we keep cleaning him up, or because a toddler's body is equipped to handle things being put in the mouth all the time.

or b) Should we keep up with the washing hands every time he gets them dirty? If so, is using a hand sanitizer better?

or a different solution altogether?

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    I think you should also focus on having the toddler focus on the food while eating, rather than letting him run around and then come back for a bite. I think this will develop bad eating habits. – Alic Jan 24 '17 at 15:50
  • @Alic Good point. – WRX Jan 24 '17 at 19:11
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I think your three year old nephew sounds pretty normal. I also do not like anti-bacterial soaps and cleansers because I think that ultimately, they do more harm than good.Link:WebMD

Recent research has found that levels of antiseptic ingredients in users' urine and blood are higher than previously thought. This raises questions regarding absorption, since these antiseptics aren't washed off, the agency explained.

In the meantime, washing your hands with soap and running water remains one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading infections to others, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I also think that being too clean is what leads to illnesses later in life: Link:WebMD

A mounting body of research suggests that exposing infants to germs may offer them greater protection from illnesses such as allergies and asthma later on in life.

This line of thinking, called the "hygiene hypothesis," holds that when exposure to parasites, bacteria, and viruses is limited early in life, children face a greater chance of having allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases during adulthood.

I think that you should model healthy behaviours. Wash hands before preparing food or eating. Wash hands after you have been on public transportation or a playground or the grocery store and so on, and of course after using the bathroom or sneezing. Model sneezing into the crook of your elbow to prevent spreading germs by then using a hand to touch something another person will touch.

Teach what not to touch -- feces, garbage -- all the obvious stuff.

Your nephew is doing what all children do and sure, he will learn to not explore everything by mouth by the example of his peers and family.

  • In addition to physical health problems, constant washing of hands can in some cases lead to psychological problems also. He might learn that getting dirty hands is something very bad and become afraid of certain activities. – nuoritoveri Feb 3 '17 at 18:07

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