Can Mum’s Really Trust The 5 Second Rule?

So many mums believe in the 5 second rule . . . that food dropped on the floor is safe to be eaten if picked up within 5 seconds . . . but the truth is this practice can have dangerous consequences.

I think the difficulty as a mother these days is that we are fed so much different information.  Some say it’s better to expose our children to germs so that they develop immunity.  Where do these theories come from? And what is scientifically proven fact? In this day and age there must have been studies completed that have generated true facts and guidelines?  There are, and I’ll try to explain them for you here.

A study completed by Professor Paul L Dawson of Clemson University in 2006 concluded beyond any doubt that bacteria transfer does take place within 5 seconds.  In the study, he used high levels of salmonella on floor tiles, nylon carpet and wood.  Shockingly, he discovered that after 28 days in a dry environment the bacteria was still present!  8 hours after he had infected the surfaces, food was dropped onto them and picked up within 5 seconds and was found to be contaminated with salmonella.  Food that was left there for 60 seconds was found to contain 10 times more bacteria.

Since bacteria is becoming more resistant to antibiotics, shouldn’t we be taking more care, particularly with our small and vulnerable children?

In 2003 the World Health Organisation produced a report which said that 40% of all reported food poisoning cases in Europe were a result of food eaten inside the home.  However, in cases of salmonella in babies, the main source of infection was found to be pets and people rather than food.  Most germs spread via our hands or surfaces we have touched including utensils and cleaning cloths.  The facts are that the majority of germs in our homes get in on people, pets and food.

So how do we understand the guidelines and change our habits without becoming obsessed with germs?

Firstly, you need to know that in fact, micro-organisms are vital to us and our environment and germs are a part of that group.  The only ones we need to be worried about are viruses, fungi and bacteria.  Our houses might look sparkling, but research shows that they’re not as clean as they need to be and definitely not as hygienic as authority regulated commercial areas.

There are certain areas in our homes that we need to pay particular attention to.  Bacteria thrive in moisture and do eventually die off when they dry out.  So sinks, u-tubes, toilets, wet cleaning and face cloths are hotspots for bacteria generation.

Targeted cleaning means to regularly clean and disinfect areas that are at higher risk of infection, as opposed to doing our standard weekly clean.  This method has been proven to be a lot more effective in microbe tests.

As mentioned earlier, our hands are one of the main routes of transmission of infection, so regular and effective hand washing is key to infection control.  Hands should be washed properly every time you handle raw food, soiled nappies, come into contact with reservoir sites or after you’ve sneezed or coughed.

In order to wash your hands effectively you need to use warm running water and an antibacterial soap.  Rub your hands vigorously making sure that the soap reaches all areas.  Pay particular attention to in between your fingers and underneath your finger nails.  Rinse your hands thoroughly and leave the water running for a short time.  Dry your hands on a dry, clean towel.  If you can, try to avoid touching the taps directly after you’ve washed your hands.

Cleaning services in Cambridge can cost anywhere from 10 to 15 pounds an hour so it’s worth learning how to hygienically clean effectively yourself, because there are few people that can afford to employ a daily cleaner in their home.

To keep your sinks, toilets and u-tubes clean it is important to regularly remove dirt that you can see and use a disinfectant cleaner.  Continuous release products are recommended. Cleaning cloths should be hygienically cleaned after every potential contamination.  Once a day you should wash them at a minimum of 60 degrees.  Instead you could boil them or use a chemical cleaner.  Soap and water alone has been proven to be relatively ineffective when it comes to the decontamination of cloths.  You need to dry the cloths as quickly as you can.  Don’t leave them damp or organisms will just grow again.  Surfaces ought to be hygienically cleaned after any contact with a possible source of infection, such as raw food or nappy items.  It’s recommended that surfaces are sprayed with disinfectant before and after preparing food.  Feeding and cooking utensils and chopping boards can be cleaned using hot water and detergent.  Make sure you rinse them properly and use a clean, dry cloth to dry them.   Floors and furniture are low risk surfaces.  They should be regularly cleaned to remove visible dirt, but you needn’t do it daily.  You needn’t practice hygienic cleaning in these areas either, unless they’ve come into contact with vomit or similar.  Regular vacuuming, mopping and damp dusting is sufficient in these places.

There is nothing more important to a mother that the health and well-being of her children.  Hygienic homes are only achieved through regular and sustained cleaning practices.  The risk of infection is much lower when parents have a habitual regime and pass good practice onto their children.