Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Toothbrush Management

Four years ago when we went from two kids to three kids the hardest part hands down was dealing with sickness.

That first year of 3 kids (ages 4, 2, and 0) it seemed like someone was always sick and we had several illnesses that ran through ALL FIVE OF US! I remember thinking, "I could do this if not for the sicknesses!" I could balance the attention among 3 healthy kids, but make that 1 sick kid plus 2 healthy ones and it got tough, and hand me 2 sick kids or 3 at a time and it felt near impossible. And don't even get me started on caring for 3 young children by myself while I was super sick. So miserable!

Most people can handle sitting up nearly all night for one night with a sick child, but what if that child gets well just in time for the next child to catch it and suddenly it becomes a marathon of sleep deprivation, round the clock nurse duties, and constant wash?

So, I became a bit of a fanatic about keeping everyone as healthy as possible. No, not going to extremes like keeping toddlers home from church for fear of them catching something. I'd rather my kids be sick all the time and in church most Sundays than live a germ-free life away from church. But, that first year I used a lot of bleach and Lysol -- door knobs, light switches -- any time someone showed the first signs of being sick, to try to keep the rest of us from catching it. It never worked.

But, in the past couple of years I think I've figured out a few things that do help lessen the spreading of the sickness within our family. This past winter we all had bouts of sickness, but none of them shared!!

We even had 3 separate (as in at least a month apart, way longer than the incubation period of Strep) instances of Strep throat, which is highly contagious, but my kids never spread it to each other!

One thing I did different this year was a new system for toothbrushes.

Instead of having all three of the kid toothbrushes in a holder on the counter where they could potentially touch each other, I separated them into individual plastic bins in a drawer.

And, here's the kicker, I believe.

Each child has their own tube of toothpaste!

It never occurred to me until recently how that toothpaste tube touches every toothbrush and can spread those nasty Strep or stomach virus germs.

Call it paranoia, call it overkill. I really don't care. We are hopefully, prayerfully going to have four kids living under this one roof next winter and this toothbrush/toothpaste system is staying!

And nobody eats after each other! Kids are little germ reservoirs. I don't care how healthy they seem, I'm not finishing off their food. That sandwich they only ate one bite of can be saved again for them, but anyone else that eats it is eating at their own risk!

I have some other tips on keeping the family healthy I'll share in another post at a future, undetermined date.

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.


  1. These are great ideas! I never thought about the toothpaste contamination issue, either.
    You mention having some more tips: do any of them involve diet? I've noticed that when my kids are eating a lot of packaged grains and sugars for snacks (crackers, cookies, pretzels, etc.), it waaaay lowers their immune systems. Have you noticed anything like that?

  2. I suspect that swapping small amounts of germs actually has an inoculation effect. The use of a common cup for Communion doesn't make people sick, for example. I don't worry about things like finishing my child's food because I figure I'm exposed to his germs in so many other ways it won't make much difference.

    What does make a difference in my family is avoiding re-infecting ourselves: As soon as the sick person(s) begin to feel better, we wash all bedding and towels and either replace toothbrushes or soak them in straight hydrogen peroxide for 10 minutes and then rinse with hot water. I've sometimes remembered to wipe the toothpaste nozzle with peroxide, too.

    Hand-washing makes a huge difference! I know a couple with 5 kids who claim they're "too busy" to enforce hand-washing; whenever anyone in their family gets a digestive illness, they take for granted that ALL of them will have it TWICE over the course of a month or so. They go through 2 or 3 rounds of that every year since I've known them, even though they home-school so don't have many chances to pick up germs.

  3. I know I throw out all the tooth brushes when some one gets sick. Then again after all medicine is done.

  4. AWESOME idea w/ the toothbrushes!!! I think, besides the contamination issue with toothpaste, that kids like to have their own because it gives them a sense of responsibility/ownership...my girls each have their own right now b/c one has flouride free & one doesn't, but after reading this I'm going to keep it that way...and go out and buy little bins for their stuff...maybe we'll even decorate them!!!thanks for the ideas!


I'd love to hear what you think!