Catching an Infection

net2 An infection is a sickness caused by microbes.  Microbes are living things so small that you need a microscope to see them.  Microbes can be bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites.  They are everywhere and most of them are harmless to human beings.  Microbes like a warm, dark, moist environment to live and grow.


If we had a recipe for making an infection, we would need only three ingredients:

  1. A source of microbes (germs).
  2. A way of passing the microbes from one person to another or from one part of the body to another.
  3. A susceptible person – someone who is likely to get an infection because he is “run down” and his body can’t defend itself from microbes.


Microbes are passed from one person to another in several ways:

  1. through the air
  2. by touching
  3. by eating the microbes especially from contaminated hands


net1To keep from getting an infection you should follow some simple rules:

  • Wash your hands, especially after using the bathroom and before you eat.
  • Keep your distance from people with obvious infections.  Don’t let them cough or sneeze in your face.
  • Don’t share Kleenexes, drinking glasses, pop cans, lipstick, or silverware with people who might have an infection.
  • Don’t touch cuts or sores with your fingers.
  • Don’t break blisters.  This allows microbes to get inside and cause infection.
  • Eat a balanced diet and get plenty of rest.
  • Take a bath or shower each day to wash away unwanted microbes.  Keep your hair and scalp clean.
  • Sleep in a clean bed.  It is not a good idea to let cats and dogs sleep in your bed with you.


Since microbes are all around us, you have to make sure no one passes them to you.  Make sure you don’t get run down; then you would be an easy target for an infection.

Colds and Other Infections in the Lungs

influenza-photoMost people have had an infection in their lungs.  We call these respiratory infections.  They could be colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and influenza.  They are caused by a virus and not a bacterium.  These diseases give you a cough, runny nose, fever, and a sick feeling.  The microbes are all around us and get inside our bodies through the mouth, nose, and eyes.  In the wintertime when people stay indoors, so do the microbes.  There is a greater chance of catching this kind of infection in the winter.


To prevent colds and other infections of the lungs, follow these rules:

  1. If someone around you is sneezing and wiping his nose, that’s a good hint he has an infection and could give it to you.  Stay away until he is feeling better and no longer sneezing and blowing his nose.
  2. Don’t share tissues, soft drink cans, dishes, or silverware with anyone with a cold, cough, or runny nose.
  3. Don’t let anyone with a cold cough in your face or sneeze on you.
  4. Don’t kiss anyone on the mouth that has a cold or respiratory infection.strep-p-photo
  5. Eat a balanced diet and get plenty of rest.  If possible take a vitamin each day.
  6. Breathe lots of fresh air everyday.


If you get a cold or other infection in your lungs, take good care of yourself so you don’t get another infection on top of the first one.  Sleep a lot and drink lots of water and liquids.  Cover your mouth, with a tissue or handkerchief, when you cough and cover your nose if you sneeze.  Always put used tissues in the trash and don’t leave them lying around.  Stay in bed when you have a fever.  Go to the doctor if you don’t get better in a day or two.  You may need special medicine to help your body fight the microbes.

Hand Washing and Personal Hygiene

Hand washing is the best way to prevent infections, but it must be done often and correctly.  Just getting your hands wet isn’t enough to keep you healthy.


To wash right you need three things:

  1. Soap
  2. Water
  3. Friction (rubbing together)



Soap can be a liquid in a dispenser or a bar of soap.  If you use a bar of soap, keep it in a clean soap dish that allows the soap drain.  When it sits in a puddle of water the bacteria on the soap multiply and grow.  Then you could be washing on more microbes than you are washing off.  The water should be warm and running in a good stream out of the faucet.  It is important to apply friction (rub) on all parts of your hands; the palms, the backs, between the fingers, the thumbs, the wrists and under the fingernails.  Lots of rubbing will make the soap lather well.  If you wear rings, scrub underneath them.  They need washing too.  It’s best not to wear rings because they make great hiding places for microbes and are hard to wash around.  Don’t take your rings off when you wash.  Scrub carefully around your rings.  Rinse your hands well to remove all the soap lather and get rid of the slippery feeling.  Start rinsing at your wrists.  Try not to touch the sink as you rinse.  Sinks have lots of microbes in and around them.  In a public restroom you should leave the water running while you dry your hands with a paper towel.  Then use the paper towel to turn off the faucets.  At home you probably will use a clean cloth hand towel.  Dry your hands well to keep your skin from becoming chapped and cracked.  Cracked rough skin make more hiding places for microbes.


It’s not a good idea to wear fingernail polish.  It usually chips and cracks making rough places for microbes to hang on.  File your nails smooth and don’t bite your nails or hangnails.  Keep your hands out of your mouth.  Always wash your hands before you eat, after using the bathroom, before you prepare food and when they become dirty.


When your hands need to be washed but no sink and water are available, a gel or liquid hand washing substitute can be used.  If your hands have real dirt on them that you can see, you should use soap and water washing instead of the gel.

Cold Sores

herpes-photoA cold sore is caused by a virus called Herpes Simplex.  Some people call this infection a fever blister.  The virus is passed from someone´s cold sore to another person´s  lip or skin close to the mouth.  The most common way to get a cold sore is by kissing someone who has a cold sore.  You could also get this infection by sharing lipstick, soft drink cans, or silverware with someone who has a cold sore.  The person who has the cold sore could get another sore in another part of the body from touching the cold sore and then touching another area.  This is how some people get the herpes virus in their eye.


Cold sores hurt.  They don’t look very nice.  They keep coming back and they can spread.  For these reasons we should all want to keep from getting cold sores.



Here’s how:

  1. Don´t kiss anyone who has a cold sore.
  2. Don´t share lipstick with anyone – the virus might be living in the lipstick even after someone ´s cold sore is healed.
  3. Don´t share soft drink cans, silverware or dishes with a person with a cold sore.
  4. Don´t share towels or face cloths with someone with a cold sore.
  5. Try hard to keep your hands away from your mouth and lips, especially at school.


If you have a cold sore, don’t touch it with your fingers or pick at it.  It will heal faster if you leave it alone.  If you do touch it, wash your hands and keep your hands away from your eyes.  Don´t expose other people or family members to your cold sore.  Get plenty of sleep to speed up the healing.

Infections in Cuts and Sores


The skin helps keep unwanted microbes out of the body.  If there is a cut or opening in the skin, microbes can get inside the body to a warm, dark, moist environment and grow.  To prevent this kind of infection, the first thing to do is try not to get any openings in your skin.  Don’t let your hands get chapped and cracked. Use lotion.  Don’t pick or open pimples if you have them on your face.

If you get a cut, scrape, or sore, clean it right away.  It may hurt a little, but you should wash the cut with soap and water, scrubbing gently with a soft cloth once the bleeding has stopped.  If possible, leave the cut uncovered after cleaning it well.  When you put a bandage over a dirty cut, you make a warm, dark, moist environment that microbes like for growing.  After the cut has been cleaned, you may want to cover it with a clean bandage to keep the area clean and protect it from being injured again.  If you cover the cut, check under the bandage once a day with clean hands.  If you see yellow or green liquid around the cut, you may have an infection.  Go to your doctor.  You might need special medicine to get better.  Take good care of your cut as it heals.  Never pick at the scab because scabs are your body’s way of protecting a cut or sore while it heals.

Infections from Food

salmonella-photoThere are microbes in and on food.  Most of them are harmless.  We even have microbes in our intestines to help us digest food.  There are some dangerous microbes that can get into our food.  If you eat foods with these microbes growing in them, you can become sick with vomiting and diarrhea.    Freezing and cooking food will usually kill the microbes or stop them from growing.  Foods should always be stored at the right temperature.  Some foods, like milk, eggs, meat, poultry, fish and mayonnaise, need special attention with cooking and storing in order to prevent infection.



To keep from getting an infection from your food, you should follow these rules:

  1. Don’t eat food that looks moldy, has changed color, or smells bad.
  2. Don’t leave leftovers on the table after a meal.  Put them back in the refrigerator right away especially in the summer time.  The cooler temperatures inside the refrigerator will slow the growth of bacteria.
  3. Don’t take meat or meat sandwiches in a sack lunch unless the meat is kept cold.
  4. Don’t eat canned food if the can was bulging before you opened it.
  5. Make sure you wash your hands well before you handle food, fix a meal, set the table, or eat.
Childhood Communicable Diseases

Measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus are all infections that were once a problem in our country and made many children sick.  Some even died.  Preventing these infections is much easier now.  We have medicine now to keep us from catching these infections.  Most of the medicine is give as a “shot” in the arm.  The shot contains parts of the virus which your body will recognize and begin building protective particles called, antibodies.  These antibodies stay in your body for the rest of your life to keep you safe from the microbe.


  • The MMR shot keeps kids from getting sick with measles, mumps, or rubella.
  • The DPT shots prevent diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus in children.
  • And drinking a sip of polio vaccine helps prevent polio.


These diseases are dangerous only for people who haven’t had the shots or medicine.


Chicken pox is a childhood infection which can now be prevented with a shot.  Some children still get chicken pox.  Stay away from people or families with chicken pox until their blisters are dried and healing.


Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae meningitis are serious infections that we don’t want.  There are shots to protect you from these infections, too.


Children don’t like to get shots but it is much worse if they get the infections.


infestations-bgInfestations are not exactly infections, but they are a health problem a lot like an infection.  Infestation means invasion of the human body with lice, mites or ticks.  These insects can cause an infection when they bite through the skin.  When the infested person scratches a lot, germs from the hands or skin get inside the body through the scratch marks and cause infection.  The insects are tiny and have a short life cycle so they can multiply rapidly without the person being aware he or she infested.  Children often get infested.  The infesting insects move around by crawling.  They do not have wings or legs capable of jumping so they cannot fly or jump from one person to another.


HEAD LICE (lice = more than one insect and louse = one insect)
The head louse chooses the scalp and hair to make its home.  It likes the warm temperature in this part of the body.  It bites the scalp and feeds on tiny bits of human blood.  The female lays eggs, called nits, and attaches them to individual hairs with a special glue until they hatch.  She lays about 6-8 eggs per day.  They hatch in 7-10 days.  Lice live for only 20-30 days.

How do you get infested?  Head lice are usually passed from one person to another by contact with the hair.  You can also become infested from sharing combs, brushes, towels, hair ribbons, or hats with a person who has lice or from sleeping on the same bedding or sheets.  To avoid getting infested with head lice, don’t share personal items like combs and brushes with another person who might have head lice.  Since it is difficult to tell if someone is infested without looking very closely at his or her scalp, it’s best to use only your own hair care items.  If you do get head lice, a special shampoo can be used to kill the lice and their eggs.


Body lice are passed from one person to another usually by clothing.  The females lay their eggs in the seams of clothing that hasn’t been washed regularly.  To prevent getting body lice, you should wash your body and clothing regularly and never share clothes with other infested people.


Scabies is a skin infestation caused by an insect, called the “itch mite”.  Scabies is spread by touching another person who is infested.  The usual places for the itch mite to live are between the fingers, on the feet, in the arm pits or other warm places on the body.  Also avoid touching or holding hands with anyone who has scabies until the “itch mites” are all gone.  To prevent getting scabies or other infestations, wash your hands well and often, shampoo your hair regularly, wear clean clothes and don’t wear other kids’ clothes.

Urinary or Bladder Infections

Tiny microbes from outside the body can crawl up the small tubes of the urinary tract to the bladder to cause infection.  This type of infection can cause stomach pain and a burning feeling when you urinate (“pee”).  It can give you a fever and turn your urine cloudy or a whitish color.  (Urine is supposed to be clear and light yellow in color.)

To keep from getting a urinary or bladder infection you should drink plenty of water (six to eight glasses each day) and eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.  Urine comes out of the body in an area where there are many microbes.  Careful wiping from front to back with toilet paper, especially by girls, is important in keeping microbes out of the urinary system.  Go to the bathroom and empty your bladder several times a day.  If the bladder stays full for a long time, microbes can multiply in the bladder because it is warm, dark and moist inside the bladder.  Don’t put bubble bath or powders in your bath water because they can irritate the urine tubes and cause infection.

ecoli-toiletIf you have a burning feeling when you “pee” and have a fever, tell your parent.  Your doctor will need to check you for an infection.  You will need to collect fresh urine in a cup to check for microbes.



  1. Drink lots of water (6-8 glasses a day)
  2. Eat a balanced diet with lots of vegetables and fruits
  3. After going to the toilet, wipe yourself from front-to-back with toilet paper
  4. Go to the bathroom several times a day



  1. Use bubble bath when you  bathe in a tub
  2. Use powder on your “bottom” or between your legs