Germs and Viruses

Most kids today, even the littler ones, know that germs and viruses are nasty things.  Things they’re constantly being told to wash off their hands.  And use soap.

But, to many children, germs and viruses aren’t much more than something that needs to be washed away.  Except to say that they’re dirty and that they’ll make you sick, most kids don’t really know what it is that’s so bad about germs and viruses in the first place.

And most kids have a very hard time understanding that some germs and viruses can be just as good to you as the bad ones can be bad.  It gets very confusing but we can rely on our pediatricians to worry about the differences.

Germs and viruses are so small you can’t even see them so it can be a little hard to wrap a young mind around the concept that something so small can make someone so very sick, in a very big way.  It’s a point easier for a parent to illustrate when a child is already sick due to exposure to germs and viruses than to try to describe when the child is well and robust.

And the idea of germs and viruses and washing one’s hands seems a little mysterious to many young children, too.  They know they need to wash their hands when they are sticky, dirty, or otherwise visibly sullied.  They can wash until they see the dirt go away and know they have clean hands.  It’s a little bit trickier trying to get them to understand that, even though they’re too small to see, germs and viruses need to be washed away, too, just like the visible dirt.

To make them even more tricky, germs and viruses have many names.  One fancy name for germs is bacteria.  One even fancier name for bacteria is Escherichia coli 0157:H7 but there are thousands of other names for bacteria, too.

Other names for germs and viruses are microbes, parasites, mold, yeast, fungi, and protozoa.  And then there’s the worms.  Worms that start out as babies too small to see when they enter the body but they quickly grow.  Some of them grow a lot.  Tapeworms can grow to be as long as 25 feet.

One problem kids need to understand about germs and viruses is that, because they are so small, too small to even see, we must all be very careful about passing our germs and viruses on to our friends and family.  Never sneeze or cough when you are facing someone else’s face or hands and wash your own hands before eating and after going to the bathroom.  Every time.