Hygiene is the practice of cleanliness to prevent disease. NBC Learn, in partnership with Centene Corporation, has tips on how to stay clean, how you can make sure you are clean enough to stay healthy and provide an eye-opening look at some of the germs growing on common household and school items.
Get Healthy -- Hygiene
MORGAN RADFORD reporting:
Hey there guys, I'm Morgan Radford and it's time to get healthy!
How many germs do you think are on your body right now? Fifty? A hundred? Maybe a thousand? Well, guess what. It's way more. It's actually in the millions! There are more germs on your body right at this minute than there are people in the entire United States. And not all of these germs are actually bad for you, but a lot of them are better kept off of your body. And the way you do that is through good hygiene.
JESSICA BUTTS: Hi, my name is Mrs. Jessica Butts. I teach health in the middle school in Croton on Hudson, New York. Hygiene is the practice of cleanliness in order to prevent disease. We do have natural bacteria that grow on our skin, but we need to take away any of the bacteria or the dirt that might be getting on our skin by touching surfaces.
RADFORD: All right, so if certain bacteria, viruses or other germs get into our bodies, they settle into your cells and then they start multiplying. Your immune system goes to work to get rid of them, but if those germs cause damage to your cells, you can actually get sick. And if they damage cells in your nose, for example, you can get a cold. If they damage cells in your intestines, you could be sick to your stomach. Some even attack your entire body and cause really serious illnesses. These germs can live on all kinds of surfaces, so that's why you have to be careful.
BUTTS: We're going to see what's growing on all of our hands. I'm going to swab it, then I'm going to go ahead and rub it into this petri dish here.
RADFORD: We tested for germs on hands, a phone, a game controller, a computer mouse, a television remote, and a door knob. We let the germs grow in a petri dish for a week. The results? Just look! The germs we found on their hands, they can cause all kinds of illnesses from skin and ear infections to stomach problems and even worse. Those same germs found on their hands were also found on the doorknob and on the computer mouse. That's really how germs travel. The phone and the game controller, they actually weren't as bad as we thought they'd be, but take a look at the television remote control. Some of these nasty growths can make you really ill.
So, how can you practice good personal hygiene? One of the best things you can do is really simple, just wash your hands. Doctors think up to a million lives could be saved every single year if everyone simply washed their hands.
BUTTS: You should start with warm water, get your hands a little bit wet first, and then use soap. Make sure you’re washing between your fingers, trying even to get any dirt or germs from under your fingernails is really important as well. And either air dry or towel dry.
RADFORD: To wash your hands long enough to kill germs you should lather for about 15 to 20 seconds.
BUTTS: If it helps you to kind of time it out, singing happy birthday to yourself would be a great kind of timeline to follow for the process of washing your hands.
RADFORD: Your hands aren’t the only places where those germs are hiding.
BUTTS: We also have to wash our whole body from the top of our head down to our toes. Our hair on our head, the hair on our eyebrows and our face, the fine hair all over our body traps dirt and germs, so if we wash that away on a daily basis or every other day, we're lowering the chances that we're going to get infected with a germ.
RADFORD: And when you do get sick, there are also things you can do to keep from spreading your germs to other people. One sneeze can send a hundred thousand germs into the air. So how do you keep from spreading your germs? Just lift your arm like a vampire lifts its cape, and then sneeze straight into your elbow.
BUTTS: If somebody doesn't cover their cough or sneeze into their elbow, then they’re risking what we call a germ transfer.
RADFORD: So here are some quick things to remember about staying clean and preventing the spread of disease. Number one, wash those hands. You also need to bathe every day or at least every other day to keep germs off of your body. Besides making you sick, those germs can also make you smell. And who wants that? And also, don't forget to brush your teeth. Germs can build up in your mouth and that can cause everything from bad breath to missing teeth. And those are just three ways that you can get healthy and you can stay healthy.
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