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Prevent The Spreading of Germs

Phillip Ramsey


Hello, my name is Phillip and I...I...Ah...Ahhhh...AHHHHCHOOOO! I'm pleased to meet you. Well, go ahead, shake my hand. What? Well, yes, I DID just sneeze into my hands, but I wiped them off on my pants. Oh, I see, you're afraid you may catch my cold. Gee, it's funny how you won't shake my "viral grip" but won't give a second thought to shake the next person's hand. Sure, I may SEEM to be a little more "germy" than the next guy, but how can you be sure? Let's do a little fast forward and see what may happen in the future.

A little later in the evening, you finally decide it's time to leave your friend's dinner party. You pick up your coat and head home. As you walk in the front door of your home, you notice your husband is fast asleep on the couch and you hear little Katie, your three month old baby, whimpering. You check in on her and decide you will make her a bottle. Katie is so thrilled with the bottle she falls fast to sleep after a few small gulps. Everything seems to be great...until a couple of days pass. You wake one morning with a runny nose, watery eyes, and a somewhat sore throat. When you go pick little Katie up from her bed, you notice she also has a runny nose and watery eyes. Congratulations! You have just introduced little Katie to the common cold. At this point, several questions may be running through your mind like, "How?" or "What should I do now?". Well, let's take a look at what we're dealing with.

The common cold, or VIRAL RHINITIS, is caused by over 200 different viruses, each similar but unique enough to make finding a vaccine for the cold almost impossible. Adults on average develop a cold two to four times per year, whereas babies and children have twice the average. It seems a little unfair, but that's the way these viruses work. They are not concerned that their victim is young and somewhat helpless. It just happens to be that babies haven't had the vast experience adults have had to develop their immune systems through many years of contact with germs. When a virus like the common cold attacks an adult, the immune system is prepared with antigens and other anti-viral agents to help stop the attack. Babies on the other hand have immune systems that are still learning what a cold is. It is therefore important that we pay close attention to preventing contact between our babies and the cold as much as possible. How do we do that? Well, a great start would be to work on our own personal hygiene. You may believe that you are an extremely well-kept person, but this idea can be deceiving. Cold viruses are easily passed from one person to another through both direct and indirect contact. Direct contact would include someone sneezing in your vicinity, such as a relative sneezing in a car. Inhaling the tiny droplets of virus-laden mucous floating in the air could cause you to develop the cold yourself. Direct contact, however, is not the most common way to catch the cold. Indirect contact causes many more cases of the cold. Opening a door and using a restroom are both examples of indirect contact. Still puzzled about how little Katie caught the cold? You met other people, shook other hands, probably touched a doorknob at some point and didn't wash your hands when getting home. It is VERY important to wash your hands before handling your baby, especially before feeding her. Virus particles from your hand can be rubbed onto little Katie's hands and then transferred to her eyes. That's right, I said EYES. You see, the eyes are where up to eighty percent of all colds enter a child's nose. The tear ducts are a direct link to the sinus cavity. In order to prevent any other indirect contact, it is also necessary to keep laundry at home picked up and washed often. While your at it, why not sanitize doorknobs, faucets, and the refrigerator door handle at least once a week. This will help to keep the number of germs in your house low.

What should you do if you think little Katie does have a cold? Well, first you need to recognize the symptoms. The common cold normally causes nasal congestion, a fever of 99-100 degrees, chills, a sore throat (from sinus drainage), sneezing, loss of appetite, cough, watery eyes, cold sores (caused by the herpes simplex virus), and an earache in babies if infected mucous moves to the back of the throat and to the ear canal. If little Katie seems to have these symptoms, don't panic. Although there is no treatment for the virus itself, there are things you can do to treat the symptoms. Many parents have grown up with and prefer to use vaporizers to help clear chest congestion. If you use an atomizer, you should know the advantages and disadvantages. Cold water atomizers may, over a period of time, allow bacteria to breed and be sprayed into the air, whereas warm water atomizers are a burn hazard. Always read your atomizer manual carefully and follow the directions. Non-prescription cold medicine, antihistamines (stops runny nose), and pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be used. WARNING: Never give aspirin to a child under eighteen! Always consult a pediatrician about before using any of these medications. Give plenty of fluids and bedrest. It's probably best that you don't take your baby out at this point and that you keep others away. Little Katie needs her rest. If symptoms seem to worsen over the next couple of days, see your doctor. Secondary infections such as sinusitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia sometimes occur and may become life-threatening without proper treatment. Your baby is the most important little person in your life. Keep little Katie healthy and go ahead, shake my hand.

Phillip Ramsey has a degree in natural science and teaches high school chemistry, physics and physical science. He is the father of a 5 year old son and a 2 year old daughter. He spends time with his family when not teaching and is married to Lori Ramsey, who is expecting child number 3 in November.

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