Q We have just adopted a one-year-old boy and want to make the house safe health wise for our son. With so many antimicrobials and disinfectants on the market, I don’t know what is best or what to use. What about those “mutated germs” like SARS – what do I use for them?

A: Relax! You sound like I did – and every other parent – with a first child. The truth is all health experts agree that thorough and frequent hand washing is your best defense. Over-protection and over-killing will be more damaging to the child than a few germs. Children build immunity by being exposed to germs a little at a time. If your house is “over-clean” then your child won’t have those exposures, and when he is older and “out” or visiting homes of less concerned parents, they may be defenseless to what other children consider normal exposure.

With SARS in the news, I can understand your concern, however, unless there is a valid SARS threat in your community, your family is frequently ill, or your immune systems are at risk, you probably have a fairly clean, germ-free environment. You would know if you didn’t.

Bringing a child into a healthy home does not bring illness with it automatically. There are germs everywhere, getting paranoid about them doesn’t help. Overheating your home to accommodate the elderly or the young is another action that works against the health of all involved. Don’t turn your home into a germ incubator.

Overuse of cleaners can cause potential germ resistance to disinfectants. Here are some tips to avoid creating that dangerous environment:

• If the disinfectant isn’t needed, don’t use it.

• Don’t use a sanitizer in place of a disinfectant. You don’t live in a hospital.

• Mix and use the disinfectants at their proper labeled concentration

• If you must use disinfectants, use EPA registered ones that are specifically effective against the resistant strain you are cleaning.

• Make sure you allow enough contact time for the disinfectant to kill the germ. Slap-dash won’t work.

• Don’t use home remedy disinfectants. While they may work on some things, they may be over-kill on others or worse give you a false peace of mind when they don’t work.

• Don’t try to kill all germs, just those that pose a health threat to your family.

• Don’t use disinfectants for routine house cleaning.

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