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Measles on the Rise: Know the Facts about Kids and Germs

Friday, February 01, 2019 10:41 AM

A measles outbreak in Washington and New York, and an uptick in Georgia, may cause concern for parents wondering what they can do to prevent their children from catching something. Are some of these viral and bacterial infections preventable? Recently, Dr. Jennifer Schott, NorthShore Pediatrician, answered questions like these about germs and how they spread in a childhood illnesses chat. She helps to distinguish more myths and facts below:

­True or False: Children are less susceptible to germs than adults.
False. Firstly, it depends on the age of the child. A young infant is more susceptible than adults to illness because they have a less mature immune system. As children get older, they technically have a mature immune system, but still seem to get more infections. This is likely for 2 reasons; first, they haven’t built the specific immunity to an illness because they haven’t been exposed to it before, and second and most importantly, kids are not as good as adults about hygiene. They put their hands in their mouth more and wash their hands less.

True or False: Children should use both soap and water, and hand sanitizer to prevent sickness.
False. Soap and water or hand sanitizers are good to help prevent the spread of germs. It is not necessary to use both. Hand washing with soap and water is considered superior to hand sanitizer, but use whatever you have available.

True or False: You can treat viral infections like the common cold with over-the-counter medication.
True and False. Over-the-counter (OTC) meds can help alleviate the symptoms of the common cold, like fever or headache. Tylenol is good for this and if older than 6 months ibuprofen can be used instead of Tylenol. Other OTC cold remedies may help, but should not be used under 2 and you should consult your doctor when they are appropriate.

True or False: It’s not important to get children vaccinated.
Big FALSE! It is VERY important to vaccinate. Vaccines prevent deadly childhood and some adult illnesses that often can not be treated if gotten. Medical science has proven many times the safety of vaccines.

True or False: A well-balanced diet can help prevent and fight against germs and bugs.
True and mainly False. While it is important for many reasons to have good balanced nutrition, unless significant malnutrition illness can not be prevented just by eating well. Illness is spread from person-to-person whether healthy or not. This is why good hand washing is to important. However good nutrition may help fight an illness better if it is contracted.

True or False: Kids only spread germs by having contact with other kids.
False. Illness and germs can be spread from desktops, shopping carts or any other surface that has been touched by either an ill child or adult. It is important to remember adults can also spread illness to kids, so it is important that adults also practice good hand washing and are up to date on vaccines, like the flu shot. This is why good hand washing prior to meals and after using the restroom is so important. And hopefully not putting hands in the mouth.

True or False: Unlike chickenpox, you can get viruses like hand, foot and mouth disease multiple times.
True. Most viruses change a tiny amount and allow the body to get re-infected with a similar, yet different infection. While the symptoms may look the same the actual virus can be quite different between each infection.

Any last tips for parents for keeping their kids healthy as spring/summer rolls around?
Good hand washing and keeping hands out of the mouth as much as possible!