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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman's Newfound Fear of Germs Rankles Relative

DEAR ABBY: A 30-year-old relative of mine has developed a "germ phobia." She constantly applies hand sanitizer and avoids anyone who exhibits any kind of symptoms. She refused to visit me when I was in the hospital because she thought she might catch something. She was not always like this.

I love her dearly and have no idea what has caused the problem. Is there anything I can do to get her to give up some of the precautions she's taking -- or does she need professional help? -- WORRIED RELATIVE IN TAMPA, FLA.

DEAR WORRIED RELATIVE: Because you don't know what has caused her health concerns, I recommend you ASK her. Hand sanitizers are popular because they claim to kill 99 percent of germs and decrease bacteria on the skin. Every time someone opens the door to a public building or presses an elevator button it's as though that person has shaken hands with everyone who has been there before, so using hand sanitizer seems like good sense to me.

As to your relative not visiting you while you were hospitalized, the reason doctors are reducing the length of hospital stays and are performing so many outpatient procedures is to minimize the germs that patients are exposed to in the hospital.

Read more in: Health & Safety