Germs and immunizations
By: Dr. Jeff Pernica, infectious disease specialist
How germs spread
Germs are tiny living things that exist everywhere in the world. They’re on the inside and outside of our bodies, in the water, on animals, and in the soil. They can be both good and bad for us. When germs inside our bodies are not supposed to be there, we become ill.
Germs spread through the air in sneezes, coughs, or even breaths. They can also be passed from person to person by touching each other or common objects and surfaces. School is an ideal environment for germs to spread and multiply because there are lots of people together in the same place. Since children’s bodies aren’t fully mature, they’re not able to fight off germs like adults and can be more vulnerable to illnesses caused by germs. This is especially true for babies, who are at highest risk.
Follow these tips to prevent the spread of germs:
- Always sneeze or cough into your elbow
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using the toilet
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Stay home if you’re sick so you don’t bring germs to work or school
- Clean and disinfect common surfaces and objects, including bathroom and kitchen counters and toys
- Get all recommended vaccines, especially the flu vaccine every year
Immunizations protect children from many serious infections that can cause significant illness or even death. Many of these diseases can easily spread among children who are not vaccinated. Immunizations work by stimulating the body’s immune system to protect itself against these infections.
All children attending school between ages 4 and 17 need to have documentation of immunizations according to the Ontario Immunization Schedule. The number of vaccines your child needs will depend on whether they have previously gotten all required vaccinations in infancy. If your child requires an exemption for a medical (or any other) reason, you must discuss this issue with your local public health office.
Vaccines are usually given in needles, which can be scary. To prepare your child, tell them that vaccines are important to keep them healthy. It may help to use distractions like humour, toys, games or books. After being vaccinated it’s normal to have mild discomfort for a day or two at the injection site.
As parents, you must provide your child’s immunizations records to the local public health office and ensure they are kept up to date.