Tips to Mitigate Back-to-School Germs

Aug 01, 2017

You know they are there, you know that they live on everything we touch, see, and feel. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes germs as small, sneaky, micro-organisms, or living things, that can cause disease. These tiny invaders can do a lot of harm to your body. Because of the immune system, most germs are not harmful to your body; however, some germs are constantly attacking to breach your immune system defenses. There are four types of germs we need to know: fungi, bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.

According to Kids Health, germs are found everywhere in plants, animals, food, people, and sometimes they can make us sick. Bread for example: Have you ever had bread past the expiration date? That green stuff appearing on the loaf is a fungi mold. Fungi, or fungus, are similar to plants. Unlike plants, fungi cannot make its own food, they retrieve nutrients through plants, people, and animals. Common fungi are in most yeast as a necessary ingredient, while other forms of yeast can cause infections in the mouth or throat, and commonly known with athlete’s foot.

Bacteria are common creatures. Getting their nutrients from the environment or human body is how they survive. Although the five-second rule is cute when food falls on the floor, this misrepresentation of the rate at which bacteria can travel is inaccurate. Medical News Today states that if you were to line up bacteria end to end, they could fit across the end of a pencil eraser. Strep throat, urinary tract infections, tuberculosis, these are harmful infections caused by harmful bacteria. The Mayo Clinic classifies these infections produced by toxins that create powerful chemicals and damage cells, making you sick.

Viruses act like thieves by taking control of the cells in your body, destroying the host cell, hijacking the machinery that makes cells work, all to reproduce. They cannot live unless they attack a person or animal, commonly seen with influenza, the common cold, chickenpox, and AIDS. Although antibiotics are designed to rid us of these harmful germs, antibiotics have no effect on diseases. This hostile takeover described by Live Science Health is caused when a virus is coated with a protein coat, or envelope, encasing the virus both inside the host’s cell and within the host itself, ultimately creating a conditioned environment that allow the virus to spread carrying its own DNA.

Bacteria that resides in your intestines helps you digest food, providing nutrients as they destroy disease micro-organisms. Protozoa, however, are like animals, hunting other organisms for food. Living most of their lives in food, soil, insects and water, protozoa invade the body through what we consume or transmitted by mosquitos. Drinking contaminated or sometimes filtered water can be harmful through the consistent buildup of bacteria.

Here are the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) top pointers for parents and teachers to help control the spread of illness at school and home.

1. Start the year right
Get a jump on the school year by taking your child to the doctor for his or her annual physical. And while you're at it, request information about when you should return for an annual flu vaccine, since the CDC says that a flu shot is "the single best way to prevent the flu."

2. Hands off
Kids are always making interesting choices, like picking their noses or rubbing their eyes with grubby little hands. These habits are a huge no-no when it comes to disease prevention. Experts believe that disease is often spread by using dirty hands to rub or touch the eyes, nose and mouth. Teach your children to keep their hands away from their faces.

3. Wash hands frequently
Hands are basically as dirty as a toilet if they're not regularly washed. In fact, teaching your child to regularly wash his or her hands is one of the best ways to prevent her from getting sick. The CDC says that hand washing is only good if a person lathers soap for at least 20 seconds, so teach your kids to do the same when they're washing their hands at school.

4. Practice the basics
You can prevent the spread of germs by keeping immune function healthy. Insist that your children sleep at least 8–10 hours per night, drink plenty of water and load up on fruits and veggies.

5. Disinfect germ hot spots
Even if you can't disinfect the hot spots at your child's school, you certainly have free reign over your home. Use an EPA-registered disinfecting product like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes or Clorox Regular Bleach to disinfect nasty home surfaces like the remote control, doorknobs, light switches, faucets and plastic toys.

6. Keep sick kids at home
If your kids get sick, we are genuinely sorry. But you can make another parent's life easier by keeping your sickos home to prevent the spread of illness through the school.

7. Coach the elbow cough
Yes, kids need to cover their coughs. But no, kids should not cover their coughs or sneezes with their hands (see tip No. 3). Teach your children to always cover their coughs to prevent the spread of droplet or airborne illness, but to do so with the crook of their elbow rather than their bare hand.

8. Know when sharing is a bad idea
Sharing is a great value to teach. Sharing food, however, is generally a bad idea in the school cafeteria. The potentially dirty hands of your child's peers can deposit germs on food, even if your kid's hands are clean. Moreover, a sandwich contaminated with a food-borne illness could give an entire table of children a bad case of diarrhea. Sharing, it turns out, is not always caring.

About the Writer

Taiylor Sharp

Contributing Writer

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