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How to Help a Child With Anxiety Over Germs

author image Alia Butler
Alia Butler holds a Master of Social Work from Washington University, St. Louis, concentrating in mental health, and a Master of Arts in social-organizational psychology from Columbia University. Currently, Butler is a freelance writer, penning articles focusing on mental health, healthy living and issues surrounding work-life balance. She is the principle/owner of ALIA Living, LLC, providing residential interior design services, professional organizing and life coaching.
How to Help a Child With Anxiety Over Germs
Little girl happily washing her hands. Photo Credit Dejan Ristovski/iStock/Getty Images

A child with a fear of germs may work hard to avoid germs, and they might try to avoid any threat. The child’s fear of germs might be irrational and excessive, reports the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, or the ADAA. If a child's fear of germs becomes excessive, it may disrupt their daily routines, limit their efficiency and impact their self-esteem because other children will notice their abnormal behavior. The excessive fear may even develop into a more severe phobia of germs.

Step 1

Educate the child on how to protect herself against germs. According to Kid’sHealth.org, germs are spread through sneezes, coughs, breaths, sweat, saliva and blood, but they can also be spread when one person touches a contaminated and object and then they touch someone else. Teach the steps necessary to avoid the spread of germs.

Kid’sHealth.org, notes that one of the most effective ways to reduce the chances of getting germs is to wash your hands with soap and water. Help the child understand when she should wash her hands: after she uses the bathroom; before eating and preparing food; when she plays with an animal or plays outside; and after interacting with someone who is sick. Take the time to teach her how to properly wash her hands.

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Step 2

Teach the child about how a healthy diet can help his body fight off unwanted germs. The human body is strong and efficient, especially when provided with the proper nutrition and physical exercise. When a child consumes a healthy diet and gets the proper amount of exercise, he is strengthening his body’s ability to fight off infectious germs.

Provide the child with control over germs. Give him the steps he can take to reduce his body’s chances of being harmed by germs. Teach him how to eat healthy by consuming items such as fruits, vegetable, whole grains and lean proteins. Help him get regular exercise. Teach him about how exercise builds his immune system's ability to fight off any unwanted germs.

Step 3

Have the child talk to a mental health professional who specializes in exposure therapy. According to HelpGuide.org, exposure therapy is done by exposing the child within a safe and controlled environment to the situations or objects she fears. The exposures will usually happen over time and will build up in intensity as the child is able to handle more.

Exposure therapy allows the child to gain more control over her fears and reduce her anxieties, notes HelpGuide.org. Talk to the child’s doctor about a referral to a therapist who uses exposure therapy. Help your child be optimistic about therapy and offer your ongoing support. Gently remind your child about what she learned in therapy each week.

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