Friday, January 6, 2012

Spreading Germs - A Touchy Subject

It’s wintertime across most of the United States and this is traditionally a time when viruses and bacteria begin to spread more easily and quickly than they do in the summer.  The main reason for this is because we spend more time inside and in closer quarters with others.   Germs go into the air to be breathed in by others when we cough or sneeze, and can settle onto surfaces and survive several hours.  The biggest and best way to prevent colds is handwashing.  We all teach our children to wash their hands, but wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could SHOW them why it is necessary rather than telling them when they don’t want to take time out of playing. 

Parent Background Guide  Around this this time of year I start hearing things like,  “I took my daughter to  . . .  yesterday and now she is sick – we always get sick when we go there.”   As parents we have some misconceptions of how germs spread.  We all know that it is important to keep our children away from others that are sick, however, I feel that sometimes we get so into the idea of this that we forget how germs work once they enter out bodies.  While it is true that some parents bring their children to events sick and contagious or not, it is pretty rare that we can determine where and when exactly our children get sick.  Most germs have a variable incubation period and children are infected two to five days before the first symptoms show up.  Often during that time between infection and symptoms your child is spreading the germs to others.  Before you point fingers remember child may not have gotten sick from that playgroup a few days ago, instead he or she could have been infecting others.  Still getting some colds and infections is unavoidable and being germ-a-phobic doesn’t necessarily bring better health. 

This week’s activity
Vaseline or Hand Lotion (We used Johnson and Johnsons baby lotion and I think that this lotion was actually not “sticky” enough as the kids were able to replace most of the glitter with dirt when we played so we had to re-glitter them for the handwashing demonstrations.  Still we were able to find glitter “germs” all over our play area.)


Several willing friends

Hand Soap

Paper Towels

Hand Mirror

Preparation:  Choose your play area carefully remembering that glitter spreads and can be pretty persistent.  (Have you heard the joke about glitter being the herpes of craft supplies??) 

Discovery time:   Have each child doing the experiment rub hand lotion on the front and backs of one hand.  Choose one child and spread glitter onto his or her palm.  Suggest that the child hold hands with all of his friends and then allow the kids to play for 20 or 30 minutes.  After playing ask each child to see if they have glitter on their hands.  Explain that the glitter is a pretend germ. If your child does not know what germs are, now is a good time to explain.   Also mention that the glitter is not something that can really make them sick, but that there are germs too small to see all over their hands just like the glitter.  If you see glitter on their faces show them with the hand mirror so that they will understand why we tell them not to touch their eyes and mouths with dirty hands.  Next have all of the children try to clean their hands with just a paper towel.  They should find that it doesn’t work very well.  Next try just water and a towel.  Last allow them to use soap and ask the children to wash the whole time they can sing “Happy Birthday” or “Mary has a Little Lamb”  they should find that most of the glitter is gone.  A little bit may remain which is true to what happens in real life.

Tying it together:   Have the children explore the play area looking for glitter.  How did the glitter spread?  Did you give it to each other?  Did you leave it in places that you played so that other people ended up having glitter on them even if you didn’t touch them?  Again remind the children that the best way to get the glitter “germs” and real germs off their hands is by washing your hands with soap for a long enough time.

Fun Facts

Adults typically have two to five infections annually  and children may have six to ten colds a year (and up to twelve colds a year for school children)

• There are over 200 different “common cold” viruses and each person will typically get each one only once unless it changes as it moves from person to person.  Usually when we say we are “passing” colds from person to person in a family, we are actually getting different colds because our immune system is weakened from the cold we are recovering from.

• Despite the common myth, a dog’s mouth is not actually any cleaner than ours.  There are just as many germs, however there are less germs that can infect a human in a dogs mouth than in ours so if you had to get bitten you would be more likely to get an infection from a human than a dog bite.

 1/5/2012 Compost Update. After about 3 weeks our compost bin was getting pretty full from all the veggies and fruits in our diet. The kids LOVED taking the compost out every day (we kept a coffee can in the kitchen) and stirring up the compost. After we finished adding to it, I kind of fell down on the job of stirring it up regularly. Today, I went out to check and found some good and bad results. First there is no smell whatsoever, so we are going well at keeping good bacteria going. We did have quite the flock of fruit flies but luckily no large bug colony. After reading, it seems like it is a bit wet in there and that I may have added to many greens and need more of the dry stuff. The compost is not appreciably warm to the touch, but is nto as cold as the ground either.  Obviously some of the compost has already broken down because there was more space than before. I added some additional dry leaves from our forested backyard and will be putting some newspaper shreds in as well. Lastly there was quite a bit of fuzzy mold, it didn't look like it would eat me, but it was there. I wasn't sure, but I am told that mold isn't necessarily a bad thing, just part of the breaking down process. I'll update again soon.


1 comment:

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