I Was a Germaphobe Before COVID-19. Here’s What My Day Looks Like.

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by | Read time: 5 minutes

Also known as mysophobia, germaphobia is a fear of germs and contamination in general. Although it’s commonly associated with obsessive compulsive disorder, fear of germs isn’t necessarily an automatic indicator of OCD. However, it can be disruptive to daily life – so it’s important to talk to your doctor or counselor if you’re experiencing phobia-related anxiety that prevents you from functioning day to day.

I realize that last line may sound silly right now, amidst the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis. The truth is, nearly all of us are experiencing a heightened fear of germs that’s altering our daily routines, and some of us may be dealing with extreme anxiety as well, obsessing over how to not get sick. It’s understandable, given the situation and the increased awareness of where germs lurk and how they’re spread.

I thought it might be insightful to walk through a normal day in my life, before COVID-19, and share some of the tips I use to navigate my environment, so you can truly see the world through the eyes of a germaphobe.  

What is Germaphobia Represented by Overhead View of Woman Wiping Laptop Keyboard with Disinfecting Wipe | Vitacost.com/blog

Morning at Home

My house is mostly a ‘safe space,’ because I know who has touched what. The one irony is that I do have multiple pets, so it’s not a haven from germs by any means. In the morning, I don’t have many special routines. I do wash my hands before handling any food, and I sometimes give my phone a quick wipe down. I also take a multivitamin and immune support supplement before heading off to work.

At the Office

We recently moved to a new office. It’s beautiful and modern… and has massive glass doors in the lobby that are impossible to open without grabbing. With your hand. (In comparison, I could open our old office door by positioning my badge over my hand.) There’s also an elevator.

Germaphobe hack #1: wear long sleeves

I love cardigans. I love the style, the way I can swap out a different color or pattern, and create a whole new look. They’re functional, too – especially when the sleeves are a little bit long. You see where I’m going with this, right? I often use my sleeve to open the lobby door and press the elevator buttons, as well as open the door to the office itself. If I don’t have a sleeve, I grab the door in what I consider a “weird place,” estimating that most folks grab it at shoulder height.

Once safely in the office, I open the massively heavy refrigerator door (with my sleeve, if available) to deposit my lunch, then head to the sink to wash my hands. It’s important to begin my workday with a clean slate, and with clean hands.

Germaphobe hack #2: be aware of shared surfaces

This isn’t so much of a germaphobe hack as it is a good piece of advice for everyone.

From refrigerator doors and conference room equipment to elevator buttons and microwave handles, it’s nearly impossible to avoid touching shared surfaces in an office space. To prevent the spread of germs, the key for me is to be aware of what those surfaces are, and when I’ve touched them. As soon as I can, I wash my hands with soap and water. (Yes, for 20 seconds. I like the songs everyone is singing now – I’ve literally just been counting backwards from 20 my whole life.)

Some other ‘shared surfaces’ you may not have contemplated include:

  • Serving utensils at that celebratory office lunch
  • Chairs in conference rooms and kitchens
  • Faucet handles
  • Water dispenser
  • THE DREADED ICE TRAY/BUCKET (I never, ever use office ice. I have seen people put their entire hands in there more times than I can count.)

Germaphobe hack #3: wipe and wash

Everyone who sits around me knows my routine by now. When I return from a meeting (or an endless string of meetings, which is often the case), I wipe down my laptop keyboard. Since I don’t want to waste a precious wipe (yes, they’ve always been a precious commodity!), I wipe down my desk keyboard, mouse and phone, too. Note that you don’t want to get your phone screen wet if you do this – there are specific types of wipes for electronics.

After wiping everything down, I wash my hands, of course.

Surprisingly, I don’t actually use a lot of hand sanitizer, unless I’m in my car or traveling in general. I much prefer to make a quick trip to the kitchen or bathroom sink for a good, old-fashioned two-handed scrub down. 

Evening at Home

If you’ve gotten this far in my ramblings, it should come as no surprise that the first thing I do when I get home is wipe down my phone, followed by a thorough hand washing. I often wipe down my husband’s phone, too. I then proceed to hypocritically kiss my dogs and cats’ faces, let them lick my hands, and allow the dog to sleep next to me at night.

Germaphone hack #4: accept what you cannot change

One thing I’ve come to understand as a germaphobe who shares an office with 150+ people, and who shares time and space with friends and family, is that I have to make compromises and accept things as they are. I still need to touch doorknobs and ATMs, and I still want to hug my adorable nieces and nephews, even when they’re sniffly.  My closest friends, family and colleagues know my quirks, but I can’t expect everyone around me to behave like I do, or even understand my behavior in general.

Will all of this change, now that we’re dealing with COVID-19? Will everyone be as anxious and aware of germs as I am? Will everyone act as though those around them are harboring harmful bacteria and pathogens?

To be truthful, the thought of everyone feeling the way I feel every day makes me sad. Only time will tell. Until then, please stay home, wash your hands and help flatten the curve.

— Anonymous