Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Chuck E. Cheese's Germs

Momlogic did its own investigation to find out what kinds of germs are lurking at Chuck E. Cheeses. They tested several restaurants in California and found some pretty gross stuff.

From Momlogic:

Found on Yellow Bus Ride: Serratia Rubidaea. A rare cause of respiratory tract infections, wound and blood infections.

Found on table:Enterobacter sakazakii.Can cause necrotizing enterocolitis, bacteremia, and infant meningitis. Although most documented cases involve infants, infections have been found in adults as well.

Found on play mat: Klebsiella pneumoniae.Causes urinary tract infections, wound and bloodstream infections and pneumonia.

We called Chuck E Cheese's headquarters in Irving, Texas, and spoke to company spokesperson Brenda Holloway about what we found. Here's what she had to say:

"We clean and sanitize our games every night with an antibacterial sanitizing solution called Sterbac Blue. We try to inspect and maintain during the day as well. We have a large amount of kids who come through here, and with them, a large amount of bacteria. We try to keep up with it."

After getting the results from Dr. Germ we were so freaked out that we went straight to momlogic's pediatrician (and mom of two) Dr. Cara Natterson to find out what this mean for our kids ... and us. Here's what Dr. Cara had to say:

"It's worth noting that one of the bacteria found on high chairs and tables -- enterobacter sakazakii -- can cause serious infection in a young infant. This is yet another reminder that if you are tempted to take your newborn baby out of the house, a crowded restaurant is not the place to go.

Chuck E. Cheese's is really just an example of a kid-destination, a place designed to combine dining and family fun. Though the results of this study are specific to Chuck E. Cheese's, the idea is to apply the concept to kid restaurants that double as play spaces. Given the runny-nosed populations that flock here, I don't think anyone will be too surprised to find that bacteria lurk in these types of establishments.

As a mom, these bacteria sound alarming and scary. But as a doctor, I haven't ever seen a serious or life-threatening infection that can be clearly traced back to a kid-friendly restaurant.
So take this all with a grain of salt. Personally, I almost never take my kids to these places, so that when I do it is a major treat. And I pretty much stay away during the cold and flu season."

So how can you protect your children (and yourself!) from picking up bacteria at kid-oriented restaurants? Here are Dr. Cara's top five tips:

1. Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing!Make sure your kids wash their hands before they eat. And it's fine to use hand sanitizers or wipes to clean off the table surface or high chair--but thorough rubbing is necessary. Don't just splatter on the Purell.
If they play after the meal, have them wash again before going home. This is especially important for thumb or finger suckers and nose pickers.
2. WipesWipes are a great second line of defense, but really shouldn't be used in lieu of hand washing. Still, if there's no bathroom, wipe the hands thoroughly.
Also use wipes if the table (or especially the high chair) looks gross.
For babies, you can buy disposable plastic high chair tray covers that tape onto the tray and keep your child's food a lot cleaner. These are very easy to find in most grocery stores.
3. Avoid crowded kid play spaces during cold and flu seasonThis is not a news flash -- when a place is crowded with kids who have runny noses and coughs, you want to keep yours out of the mix.
4. Bring your own toys-Crayons, matchbox-sized cars, and legos are good examples of toys that you can keep in your purse or diaper bag and pull out for your child when things get a little boring. At a place like Chuck E. Cheese's, crayons don't compete with rides. But there are plenty of other restaurants where having your own distraction helps.
5. Remember, timing is everything. I like to take my kids out when they are hungry, or time their snacks so that they'll want to eat when they arrive. That way, the likelihood of play before eating (and getting germs from toys on the hands) goes down.

I try to bring anti-bacterial wipes with me to wipe down the table and high chair-no matter where we are eating. I think McDonald's play land is just as bad, if not worse. I have had to crawl up there several times to get my son. Let me tell you, it is not clean. I thought about taking wipes up there with me because it was so nasty. But what other option do you have? These kid friendly establishments are convenient and easy and it's so nice to sit and talk to friends while the kids play. It's a great break for me. It's too bad it's so gross!

Do you go to Chuck E. Cheeses and/or McDonald's playland or do you avoid it because of the germs?

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

Methodist Medical Center's new online healthcare program, MyMethodist eHealth, is a proud sponsor of this blog post. MyMethodist eHealth is the secure link to your doctor's office that lets you request appointments, order prescription refills, update your personal health record, and more. Sign up for MyMethodist eHealth here.


Jennifer said...

When my kids were little we went to both Chuck E. Cheese and McDonalds. Yes, they both harbour a lot of germs/bacteria, and I wouldn't have taken them when they were infants, but did take tham as toddlers. The world is not germ-free, and I think sensible precautions are good-like washing hands before eating, wiping stuff down, but I think (at least in a normal healthy kid with no immune deficiencies) that changing one's life out of fear of germs would be a bit silly.

Jeff and Anne McNutt said...

Germs are everywhere! I guess I could lock myself up at home with antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer but what fun would that be. Any place that attracts kids attracts their germs too. Think of Children's museums, any high chair at any restaurant, pediatricians office, church nursery, the cute car carts at the grocery store. I think as moms we can get scared or just be proactive with handwashing just like the article said and if our kids are really sick respcet those around us and stay home until they are well. It is hard but best for everyone!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this alert. I think it is a great reminder to all parents about the importance of hand washing and the use of caution and common sense during the cold and flu season.

septboy said...

Had never given this a thought. My daughter is already asking to go to CEC for her bday in April. At least most of the winter germs will be gone. Also we just came back from a cruise and as you walked into any of the buffets or the other food carts, there was always a bottle of hand sanitizer.

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