Am I a Germaphobe?

By Marissa Carr

Germ control, infection prevention

Ta Duh…Ta Duh….TA DUH TA DUH! Hearing the first few notes of the soundtrack from “Jaws” sends chills down my spine. To this day, I still look every which way when I go to the beach, even though only about 60 shark attacks are reported around the globe in a year. Since I never let the waves reach higher than my ankles, the chances of my being attacked by a shark are just about nil. Yet before I received my kidney transplant, I thought about shark attacks more often than I thought about the consequences of getting an infection from germs.

Germs are microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that can cause disease and infection. Ta Duh, Ta Duh. They’re everywhere. TA DUH TA DUH! For the most part, people whose immune system isn’t compromised can live their lives without thinking too much about germs. But now that I’ve received a transplant and have to take immunosuppressants, I must be extra careful not to get an infection and risk rejection of the kidney.

When I was on dialysis and after I had my transplant, my health care team made sure that I understood that frequent hand washing is the best way to prevent infection and illness. I immediately adopted hand washing as my number one method of keeping myself healthy. I spoke with every member of my family about how proper hand-washing techniques could help me stay healthy and help keep everyone else healthy too.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website (, there are a few simple steps to follow: Wet your hands with running water.

  1.  Apply liquid, bar or powder soap.
  2.  Lather well.
  3.  Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  4.  Rinse well.
  5.  Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or an air dryer.
  6.  If possible, use your towel to turn off the faucet.

Unless my hands are soiled or dirty, I find that hand sanitizers or alcohol-based hand wipes are good alternatives to hand washing. There are many brands and formulas of hand sanitizers on the market, and I learned that the alcohol content must be 60% or higher to be effective. Bath & Body Works carries moisturizing hand lotion with different scents, and it’s great if your skin becomes dry from using hand sanitizers.

I keep a small bottle of sanitizer with me at all times. In addition, I place bottles around the house in visible, handy locations so that everyone sees and uses it throughout the day.

Yes, I’m a germaphobe. I spent 6 long years on dialysis and don’t plan on having to go back to it because of an infection. If you’re on dialysis, an infection can bump you off the transplant list or require a course of antibiotics or a stay in the hospital. If something as simple as washing my hands frequently or using hand sanitizer will help keep my new kidney healthy and therefore keep me healthy, then I’ll cheerfully do it.
Germaphobes Unite, I say!!!

Germ Control, Infection Prevention - Marissa CarrAbout the Author
Marissa Carr was diagnosed with PKD in 1986. She went through six years of dialysis followed by a successful transplant in 2007. Now very happy and healthy, she enjoys being a HOPEline operator and volunteering with Renal Support Network.

Article uploaded 1-9-2011

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