CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - We’ve just passed 100 days of school and your child’s backpack and lunchbox have seen a lot so far.
But what’s on them that you can’t see?
WBTV's Anne Marie Hagerty found a family willing to put their kids’ backpacks to the test.
They did a week of testing with the Henderson family and an infectious disease specialist. What we wanted to know is if any of the germs can actually make you or your kids sick?
“I think kids drag their stuff everywhere on the lunch tables on the floors in the bathroom. So it will be very interesting to see what comes back, especially during flu season," said Diana Henderson, mom to Myles, Cora and Quinn.
We used a sterile cotton swab with the kid’s to skim the surface of their backpacks and lunchboxes then swab in petri dishes.
“It’s probably gonna look disgusting to my sisters," said Myles.
“I am a little concerned about what is going to grow," said Henderson.
The clear surface in the dish soon turned to splotches of white and yellow and gray, so we turned to infectious disease specialist Doctor Arash Poursina.
“This one is very interesting. This one comes from the lunch box.... I can probably turn around at least, maybe seven or eight different organisms or so. Some of them are separate kingdoms,” said Poursina. “There’s a definite possibility that we are looking at staff, or possibly MRSA.”
You could tell just by looking at the bacteria that it was bad news, but smelling it solidified the disgust.
“It smells like old socks and rotten throw up," said Myles.
But Henderson, like many moms, sanitizes all the time and her kids carry these things every day.
“It’s kind of worse than I expected. I was hoping secretly that they would come back clean. And I could say that, you know, my kids lunch boxes are germ free. But certainly it came back with a lot more than we were expecting," said Henderson.
We asked Dr. Poursina, what are the health risk to you and your kids you need to know about?
“That’s when you’re going to end up in troubles or like food poisoning, sicknesses and of course, these very same organisms get into any of the vital organs. That would be a totally different story than you talking about it. This massive infections, sepsis, the very same strep or that is found on the skin. If it gets into your throat, that’s when you get strep throat," said Dr. Poursina. “If it gets into your bloodstream, you have a massive staph infection it can cause heart valve infections can cause massive infections in joints and vital organs, pneumonia.”
But there is a good news -- the remedy is simple and you already know how to do.
Dr. Poursina just has an upgrade for you:
Sing happy birthday twice and wash with special attention to your nails and nail beds. He says chipped nail polish can also collect extra bacteria so make sure to remove cracking nail polish.
“Washing hands could be one of the greatest gifts that anybody can give their children many parents do not emphasize enough on hand washing, and do not educate their kids," said Poursina.
Dr. Poursina says the best types of lunchboxes to use to stay clear of germs are metal or stainless steel because you can easily wash the hard metal exterior and it’s harder for germs to cling on.
“It’s a good reminder that kids are exposed to a ton of germs and we just have to be really diligent about encouraging them to wash and clean the things that they touch, and they won’t be completely immune to what they bring home, but that we just, you know, that that’s gonna come our way.”