Stopping Germs at Home, Work andSchool
How Germs Spread
The main way that illnesses like colds and flu are spread is from person to person in
respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. This is called "droplet spread." This can
happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the
air and are deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Sometimes germs also
can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a
surface like a desk and then touches his or her own eyes, mouth or nose before washing
their hands. We know that some viruses and bacteria can live 2 hours or longer on
surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks.
How to Stop the Spread of Germs
In a nutshell: take care to
Cover your mouth and nose
Clean your hands often
Remind your children to practice healthy habits, too
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away.Cover your cough or sneeze if
you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or
The "Happy Birthday" song helps keep your hands clean?
Not exactly. Yet we recommend that when you wash your hands -- with soap and warm
water -- that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. That's about the same time it takes to sing
the “Happy Birthday” song twice!
Alcohol-Based Hand Wipes and GelSanitizers Work Too
When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel
sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If
using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the
alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.*
* Source: FDA/CFSAN Food Safety A toZ Reference Guide, September 2001: Handwashing.
Germs and Children
Remind children to practice healthy habits too, because germs spread, especially at
school. The flu has caused high rates of absenteeism among students and staff in our
country's 119,000 schools. Influenza is not the only respiratory infection of concern in
schools -- nearly 22 million schools days are lost each year to the common cold alone.
However, when children practice healthy habits, they miss fewer days of school.