''They're all over me,
They're inside of me,
Can't get 'em offa me,
I'm covered with ... microscopic bacteria.
What do they want from me?
What'll they do to me?
There's no escape for me,
I'm crawling with ... microscopic bacteria''
Known to psychologists as "mysophobia" and to others as "germophobia" this trope describes characters who have a crippling fear of germs. This is one of the common symptoms of Super OCD
This goes well beyond simple fear. Realistic examples might refuse to touch anything that hasn't been extensively washed while more over the top versions can go so far as to fear the germs are sentient and conspiring to make them sick (though research has shown they can work together
, and may even be capable of messing with your head
It's not an uncommon plot to have a character develop this problem for a short time in order to deliver An Aesop
about taking risks being a necessary part of life.
Compare Neat Freak
, Sickly Neurotic Geek
- In Spirited Away, Yubaba's son Boh never leaves his nursery because his Beloved Smother has given him this fear by overprotecting him. His phobia appears to have disappeared after Zeniba turns him into a mouse.
- Shirotani from Ten Count has mysophobia and therefore wears gloves while he's out, washes his hands compulsively, and is hesitant to touch certain objects.
- The post-Infinite Crisis Brainiac was this. While battling Superman, he was thrown into a swamp, and traumatised by all the microscopic lifeforms crawling over him.
- A-Pex from Power & Glory is the Comic Book poster boy of this trope. Allen Powell was already somewhat phobic beforehand, but the NIA's super-power treatments turn him into a full-blown mysophobe, even though A-Pex is an invulnerable Flying Brick. In the first issue, he's masturbating with gloved hands while two prostitutes frolic in front of him; when they attempt to draw him into the action, he screams, “Who knows where you’ve been?!”
- A minor character in the film of K-PAX was committed because of crippling mysophobia. The main character cured it by engineering a near-death experience, which caused the resident psychologist no small amount of confusion.
- Ed Begley, Jr. as the antagonist Ebner Frost in Santa With Muscles.
- Bob from What About Bob? is afraid of germs, among many other things. He stays in his apartment as much as possible, and uses tissues to avoid actually touching things. He gets better over the course of the film.
- Super Mario Bros.: When Koopa first meets the Mario Bros., he wipes his hands off with tissues and even has them sprayed with disinfectant after he shakes their hands. It's taken Up to Eleven in a Deleted Scene (which was included in the junior novelization) when he has a lab technician devolved into primordial ooze simply for sneezing.
- The Cat in the Hat: Joan Walden's boss, Mr. Humberfloob, takes this Up to Eleven. His employees have to wash their hands constantly, and when a new employee shakes his hand, he promptly fires him on the spot before scrubbing his hands with disinfectant.
- Barry Nottingham in Bedtime Stories. He gets over it near the end of the film with help from Adam Sandler's character.
- The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov: The Spacers (former Earth colonists living in Utopian conditions throughout Space) have long eliminated all disease in their worlds, but their immune systems decayed as a result (the common cold can kill them), so they are downright paranoid when dealing with normal Earth people (who live in entirely different conditions)—forcing them to take thorough showers and burning all materials they come in contact with.
- In its sequel, The Naked Sun, an Earthman visits Solaria, a Spacer world. They build him a house and he learns that they'll destroy it after he leaves the planet. However, it is stated that disease is not the matter here - Solaria is considered fringe even by Spacer standards, and it is unthinkable for any of the planet's residents to tolerate another person in the same house.
- In Peter Pays Tribute, Matt brings a bottle of Febreeze with him to movie theaters. He also refuses to eat fast food, sit on public benches, and generally make contact with other people.
- The Priest-Kings of Gor are so scared of germs that they made themselves immune to all sickness, eradicated every germ that could possibly harm them, moved to another planet, require outsiders to wash in antibacterial bleach several times a day and still won't touch anyone.
- Germs in general aren't too worrying in A Brother's Price, but sexually transmitted diseases are cause for the greatest concern. They are why remaining a virgin is such a big deal for young men and why cheating is seen as among the worst transgressions imaginable; this world's fear of STDs combined with the rarity of men and womens' interest in abducting them is the reason why men's lives are so limited.
- Dr. Lisa Babitz in Star Trek: Vanguard. At least as a doctor she can fight on the front lines against them...
- In Judy Blume's Iggie's House, Dorothy Landon is so terrified of her daughter Clarice touching, eating, or drinking anything that isn't hers, that Winnie Barringer often refers to the mother as Germs, Inc.
- In the Junie B. Jones books, Sheldon Potts, to the point where he puts a paper bag over his head, until Mr. Scary tells him that not only will this not help, but is actually likely to just concentrate the germs.
- In Sara Pennypacker's Clementine chapter books, Clementine's best friend, Margaret, uses sanitizing wipes to clean her packs of sanitizing wipes and regularly cleans stuff she hasn't been given permission to clean, like outside sculptures in public parks.
- Adrian Monk, to the extent that he uses wipes every time he shakes hands with someone, and gets highly distressed (Well, more than usual, anyway) if somehow prevented from doing so.
- Emma Pillsbury from Glee cleans grapes individually.
- Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory showers multiple times a day and constantly washes his hands.
- Kari Byron of Mythbusters is a germophobe, as revealed in a recent set of experiments regarding passing around cold germs. She was placed in a test group instructed to avoid catching Adam's fake cold by any means possible, and by the end of that round she was the only one who had succeeded.
- Freddie's mom in iCarly. She's been known to boil flowers in bleach...
- Nevel Papperman is shown to be this, especially in his first appearance.
- Boober, on Fraggle Rock constantly obsesses over his fear and dislike of germs, and constantly worries and warns others about disease and death.
- He even has a song about it!:
"You know they're name is contagious,
Their number's outrageous,
They're wriggling and raging like worms,
And it wiggles and squirms,
I'm talkin' 'bout germs!"
- Mayor Richard Wilkins of Sunnydale, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even after he becomes invincible. At first this seems to be setting up a Chekhov's Gun that can be used to defeat him, but the only idea anyone can think of is to scare off the Mayor with a box marked EBOLA.
- Chris from Kenan & Kel acts as this in the episode where the latter character gets a cold.
- Cody Martin developed such an aversion in the latter half of The Suite Life on Deck.
- On Seinfeld, Jerry has some Super OCD tendencies, including a fear of germs. David Puddy also describes himself as a "recovering germophobe".
- On Millennium, Peter Watts' daughter was kidnapped by a veteran of the first Gulf War, played by James Marsters. His experiences in the Mideast had left him so germ-phobic that he habitually wore a HazMat suit.
- Spotless McPartland, in Dick Cavalli's Winthrop.
- Iggy from Dogs of C-Kennel.
- In Peanuts, Lucy is not afraid of germs in general, but often freaks out about "dog germs" when she's licked or kissed by Snoopy.
- Nick during The Passing in Left 4 Dead 2. In the first safe room, he may show his fear of germs by saying he has the right to be afraid since a germ wiped out the planet and turned everyone into zombies. Rochelle teases him about this when he asks for some hand sanitizer.
- In the same area later on, Nick makes several complaints about going through a sewer, ranging from wanting a piggyback ride to avoid the dirty water to trying to reassure himself that it's only a storm sewer.
- The quarians of the Mass Effect games are an entire race of these - justified because their immune systems are so weak that they must wear specially designed enviro-suits all the time and take vaccines and immuno-boosters to ward off disease. Even in clean environments, they prefer the safety of their suits, and are reluctant to remove them without a good reason. It is a gesture of trust and intimacy amongst quarians to hook one's own suit environment to another's, even though doing so can make both of them very sick. Though after one did so, she claimed the sickness she got was well worth it.
- Jarlsberg the wizard in Kingdom of Loathing. During an Avatar of Jarlsberg run, player characters can't eat or drink anything they didn't conjure themselves (only way to be sure it's clean) and can't use basic attacks (those enemies might be covered in germs).
- Howie Mandel. This is why he never shakes hands with guests on Deal or No Deal and is apparently the reason he shaves his head.
- Howard Hughes was famous for this. It eventually became so bad that he would only touch anything with tissues.
- Marc Summers. That the man hosted freaking Double Dare for 7 years and What Would You Do for 2 is a testament to his willpower and unlike Mandel, he was not afraid of shaking hands with contestants and even allowed himself to get slimed and messy on more than one ocassion, although he DID admit being on pretty heavy meds during the shows run to help him with it and a relief when both shows went off the air. Yet to this day, he's still very approachable and open with handshakes and hugs. Seriously, we need to find a biggest balls award or invent one just to give it to him!
- Anyone who has ever taken microbiology will tell you that the majority of students in the class become paranoid about germs. Many overcome it a few weeks into the semester, but others don't.
- And heaven help you if you ever take a class on epidemiology. That semester will basically be Paranoia Fuel: The University Course.