Germs are disease-causing microorganisms that cause infection and illness. The best defense against germs is good hygiene and regular cleaning, whether it is your house or your body. Not only does this help to prevent the spread of germs, it also removes the types of conditions that encourage them to grow.

Effect of Germs on the Body

When the pathogens get in to our bodies, they produce toxins that cause infection and/or inflammation leading to symptoms such as fevers, sniffles, rashes, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea. If left untreated, serious, fatal illness can result in some cases.

Once germs infect our bodies, they get comfortable and stay for as long as possible. They zap your body of nutrients and energy and can produce toxins, which are similar to poisons.

By looking at blood samples or other body fluids under a microscope, doctors can tell which germs are living in your body and what sicknesses they are causing.

Types of Germs

Germs can be categorized in to 4 types:

  • Bacteria

    Bacteria are single-celled organisms, which can reproduce very quickly. One bacterium could become one billion (1,000,000,000) bacteria in just 10 hours! Bacteria can be found living on almost every surface in every climate in the world.

    Bacteria get nutrients from their environments so they can live. In some cases that environment is the human body. Bacteria can reproduce outside of the body or inside the body as they cause infections. Some bacteria caused infections include sore throats, ear infections, cavities, and pneumonia.

    However, not all bacteria are dangerous. Without bacteria, there would be no dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt. There would also be nothing to decompose trash and clean up oil spills. In addition, we would never have developed some important medicines without bacteria. We also have good bacteria that live in our body and help with digestion.

    Good bacteria help keep things in balance. They live in our intestines and help us use the nutrients in the food we eat and make waste from what's left over. Some bacteria are also used by scientists in labs to produce vaccines and medicines.

    However, pathogenic bacteria can be very dangerous. Because of their rapid rate of growth, these types are the ones we try to keep under control with regular, effective cleaning and good hygiene practices. Examples of pathogenic bacteria include streptococcus, which causes pneumonia, and salmonella, which causes severe food poisoning as well as typhoid fever.

  • Viruses

    Viruses are simpler than bacteria in structure and usually not even really considered a living organism. They possess the same ability as bacteria to clone themselves and reproduce rapidly. Viruses can only survive by taking over a host cell in another creature so they are constantly looking for animals and humans to infect.

    An invaded cell loses its ability to function normally and is forced to produce viral proteins and create more clones of the invading virus. Once these clones are in place, the virus forces the host cell to rupture which releases all the clones to infect other host cells which cause the disease to spread.

    Viruses can be deadly and unlike bacterial infections, which can be successfully treated with antibiotics, many viral infections are untreatable and deadly. Examples include HIV (AIDS), Ebola and rabies. Other viral infections cause less serious but chronic or repetitive illness. Examples of these include Hepatitis A and the common cold.

    Viruses need to be inside living cells to grow and reproduce. Most viruses can't survive very long if they're not inside something living like a plant, animal, or person. The “home” a virus lives in is called its host. When viruses get inside people's bodies, they can spread and make people sick. Viruses cause the flu, chickenpox, measles and many other diseases.

    Viruses are especially dangerous as they can linger in many environments for long periods of time. Examples would be on a doorknob, computer equipment and cell phones. This is why effective hand-washing is so important.

  • Fungi

    Mold and mildew which thrive in damp areas of your house also belong to the same group of germs. They may not be as dangerous as bacteria and viruses but they can still cause irritation and disease.

    Fungi are multi-cell plant-like organisms. Unlike other plants, fungi cannot make their own food from soil, water, and air. Instead, fungi get their nutrition from plants, people, and animals. They thrive in damp, warm places. Most fungi are not dangerous. Examples of something caused by fungi are ringworm and athlete’s foot, an itchy rash that gets between your toes.

    Fungi usually cause problems when they are breathed in or come into contact with the skin and can result in fungal infections. Mold spores inhaled in large numbers can trigger asthma attacks, allergic reactions and increases your susceptibility to colds and flu. They also can cause sinus infections. The main problem with fungi is that they are very difficult to kill without harming the host cells as well. Any drugs used on fungal infections only manage to prevent further growth but do not manage to kill off the existing colony.

  • Protozoa

    These are parasites such as amoebas which often spread through moisture and water and cause a range of diseases, from gastro-intestinal infections which lead to diarrhea, nausea and vomiting and stomach aches to more serious illnesses such as dysentery and malaria. Protozoa are one-cell organisms that love moisture and often spread diseases through water. Protozoa can cause Giardia, Malaria and Toxoplasmosis.

    Protozoa often spend part of their life cycle outside of humans or other hosts. They live in food, soil, water or insects. Some protozoa invade your body through the food you eat or the water you drink. Others, such as malaria, are spread by mosquitoes.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Germs?

Most germs are spread through the air when someone sneezes, coughs, or even when they breathe. Germs can also spread via sweat, blood, and saliva. Some germs pass from person to person by touching something that is contaminated, like shaking hands with someone who has a cold and then touching your own nose. The best way to protect yourself from germs is to avoid the things that can spread them.

Simply cleaning with soap and water can effectively control the growth of germs. Also, preventing dirt and dust from collecting will help to prevent the kind of environment that they thrive in.

Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze and cover your mouth when you cough to keep from spreading germs.

Remember the two words germs fear most…soap and water. Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently is the best way to beat germs. Wash your hands every time you cough or sneeze, before you eat or prepare foods, after you use the bathroom, after you touch animals and pets, after you play outside, and after you visit a sick relative or friend.

Using tissues for your sneezes and sniffles is also helpful in the fight against germs. Remember though, don’t just throw tissues on the floor for someone to pick up later. Throw them in the trash and then wash your hands.

Now that you know the facts about germs, you may still pick up a cough or a cold once in a while. However now you will be ready to keep most germs from taking up residence on and in your body.