Germs are tiny organisms that can cause disease. They are so small that they can creep into your system without you noticing. To stay healthy, it helps to give some thought to germs.
The term germs is really just a generic word for four different types of organisms: bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa.
Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms that are found throughout nature, including in the bodies of human beings. But bacteria can cause trouble; ever had a urinary tract infection or strep throat? These infections are caused by bacteria.
Viruses are even smaller than bacteria and can’t live on their own. In order to survive, grow and reproduce, they need to be inside other living organisms. Most viruses can only live for a very short time outside other living cells. Viruses are responsible for not-so-serious diseases like colds as well as extremely serious diseases like smallpox.
Fungi (pronounced: FUN-guy) are multi-celled, plant-like organisms that usually aren’t dangerous in a healthy person. Fungi can’t produce their own food from soil, water and air, so instead, they get nutrition from plants, food, and animals in damp, warm environments.
Protozoa (pronounced: pro-toe-ZO-uh) are one-celled organisms like bacteria. Protozoa love moisture, so intestinal infections and other diseases they cause are often spread through contaminated water.
Once organisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa invade your body, they get ready to stay for a while. These germs draw all their energy from you. They may damage or destroy some of your healthy cells.
As they use up your nutrients and energy, most will produce waste products, known as toxins.
Some toxins cause the annoying symptoms of common colds or flu-like infections, such as sniffles, sneezing, coughing and diarrhoea. But other toxins can cause high fever, increased heart rate, and even life-threatening illness.
How can you protect yourself from germs?
The best way to prevent the infections that germs cause is by protecting yourself. Most germs are spread through the air in sneezes or coughs or through bodily fluids like saliva, semen, vaginal fluid, or blood.
If you or someone else is sick, your best bet is to limit contact with those substances.
Washing your hands often is absolutely the best way to stop germs from getting into your body.
When should you wash?
After using the bathroom, after blowing your nose or coughing, after touching any pets or animals, after gardening, or before and after visiting a sick relative or friend. And of course, you should wash your hands before eating or cooking.
There’s a right way to wash hands, too; you need to soap up well using warm water and plenty of soap, then rub your hands vigorously together for 20 seconds (away from the water).
Rinse your hands and finish by drying them thoroughly on a clean towel. It’s a good idea to carry hand sanitizer.
Another way to fight infections from germs is to make sure you have the right immunizations, especially if you’ll be travelling to other countries. Getting a flu vaccination yearly is strongly recommended unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
With a little prevention, you can keep harmful germs out of your way!