Germ Protection 101

Germ Protection 101

April 2013

As you and your family work diligently to help protect your immune suppressed child from getting sick due to the spread of germs, it can seem to be an almost overwhelming task. It is not hard to admit that through our love for our child, germ protection becomes an obsession.

Everywhere you look and TOUCH is a possibility for illness for your child. How can you and your family work together to combat not only the germs but also your fears?

What is a germ?
Let’s start with the simple definition of a germ. A “germ” is a microscopic living organism. Most germs can be helpful … but some of these microorganisms can cause disease. By understanding germs and how they spread, you can protect your child from the spread of colds and flu.

Unfortunately, these are easily spread from person to person by contact such as hand shaking, through the air such as sneezing, contaminated food and water, through animal contact, and scariest of all through indirect contact such as touching a door knob. There are three common germs: bacteria, viruses and fungi (mold and mildew). Usually these can be controlled through basic hygiene and cleaning practices.

Even though germs are everywhere including inside our bodies, germs can be helpful and help to build our immune system. But in the case of our immune suppressed children, exposure to these can be harmful. Viruses are different from bacteria and mold/mildew. They are extremely small — only 1/100th of the size of bacteria or mold/mildew. But unlike bacteria or mold/mildew, which are capable of growing on their own, viruses need a host to infect in order to reproduce. It is through this process that viruses cause disease.

What can we do?
Within your home, you must keep all surface areas clean. What’s clean to the naked eye is not actually clean at all. Germs can live on surfaces for hours and even longer. The flu germ can live up to 48 hours.

Because germs thrive in moist areas, the length of these germs lives varies due to their host conditions. In many cases, it only takes one virus particle to make you sick. That’s why frequent hand washing and surface disinfection are important measures to help control the spread of disease — especially those caused by viruses. You must not only clean you must also DISINFECT.

Cleaning removes germs from the area but disinfecting destroys them. You must make disinfection part of your cleaning routine. Always check your product label and make sure “Disinfectant” is part of the label. There are different forms of germ reducing products: Disinfectant kills pathogenic germs but not spores; Sanitizer kills 99.9% of pathogenic germs: Antiseptic kills germs on the skin such as a hand sanitizer.

Recently on the evening news, they were showing how one teacher visually taught her students about the spread of germs. She placed her hand on a plate that was covered in multi-colored glitter. As she touched their desks, books and faces, she was able to show just how easily germs are spread. This is an interesting visual especially for your younger children to experience.

Fighting germs is a family activity
How do we teach every family member in your home to take an active role in keeping your home as “clean” as possible? Hand washing is and will always be the number one way to help prevent the spread of germs. For your younger children, make it fun by having foaming type anti-bacterial soap in the bathroom. Having a disinfectant in all bathrooms is a must. If possible, limit your immune suppressed child to one bathroom. In turn, try and limit everyone else from using that one bathroom, too. Otherwise make sure that everyone is checked off on disinfecting that area.

Have disinfecting wipes stationed in every room. Don’t forget to wipe down all doorknobs, drawer pulls, refrigerator handles, toilets and toilet handles, television remotes, cell phones, telephone receivers and computer keyboards.

Having younger siblings assist with this project gives them the sense of supporting their ill brother or sister. Wipe down twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. Make this part of your family’s routine. Make sure that you do not share plates, cups or food with your child. Change bed linens regularly and make sure that your child’s toothbrush is also sanitized.

In extreme immune suppressed cases, ask your doctor whether a protective mask is necessary. If so, have your immune suppressed child wear a mask while in public and a sick family member should also wear a mask while in contact around your child. When your child’s friends come to visit, make sure everyone wears a mask including your child. Although this could seem awkward, you have the power to make this fun.

Although it may seem overwhelming, working together to understand and combat germs can be a family affair. Giving family members an active role in helping your ill child can help them to feel like an integral part of your child’s healthcare. Often, this is exactly what your family needs after leaving the hospital.