Ah, winter! The season of all festivals, those of slips and infections that end in ite. From ear infections to the flu, passing by gastroenteritis, germs make us see all the colors. Do we really have to be afraid?
When it comes to germs and how to deal with them, there are many and often divergent opinions. We tried to find out where the truth lay and, to answer our questions, we called on Nadia Desmarais, nurse and head of the infection prevention department at CHU Sainte-Justine.
What is a germ?
Before we perfect our knowledge of germs, we must make sure to clearly define what we are talking about. “Germ is the generic word we use to talk about a virus, a bacterium or a fungus,” explains Ms. Desmarais. In teaching, this is the term we use to talk about these three great families. »
gastroenteritis, influenza (the flu), certain types of ear infections and the respiratory syncytial virus that causes bronchiolitis have this in common: these are highly contagious viruses that often invade young children andpeople with weakened immune systems.
A single droplet can contaminate the whole environment
To know how to avoid or counter viruses, you must first understand how they are transmitted. “Their mode of transmission depends on the type of germ, replies the nurse from the CHU Sainte-Justine. » When talking about a respiratory virus or influenza, you should know that all you have to do is cough or blow your nose for fine droplets to disperse into the environment. “You can catch this kind of virus by breathing near a sick person or, specifies the specialist, by touching a door handle or an object contaminated by said droplets. »
Gastro, on the other hand, is transmitted through stool or vomit. It is therefore a mode of fecal and oral transmission. The chain of transmission is as follows: when a sick person goes to the toilet, they will leave behind tiny splashes. Just touch these fine droplets and bring your hands to your mouth to contract the germ. “In some cases, explains Ms. Desmarais, the simple fact of breathing near a person who is vomiting can be enough to catch the virus. »
Can you avoid getting a germ?
Vigilance is probably the best way to prevent viral infections. “Hand hygiene, says the nurse, we can’t cope. It is the cheapest, easiest and most effective way toprotect yourself. » Washing your hands well with soap and water, coughing into your elbow, properly disposing of old tissues, these are the basic actions to fight viruses.
In an ideal world, when it comes to gastro, “dedicating a bathroom to the sick person would be the right thing to do, says Nadia Desmarais. But this is not always possible, as it is impossible to separate siblings and keep them away from each other. » Everything must therefore be disinfected after each visit to the small corner.
Disinfectant gels and their effectiveness
Alcohol-based solutions such as Purell are popular. They are found everywhere, and some people swear by them. Disinfectant gels are made from alcohol and this is a very effective antiseptic. In addition to killing germs quickly, these products slip easily into a bag. You can therefore always have them at hand and use them at all times. “Even if they are really useful, adds Ms. Desmarais, they lose a lot of their effectiveness if the hands are not clean since the dirt prevents the alcohol from acting properly. So nothing can replace good hand washing with soap and water.
From 8 to 12 viruses per year
At the moment, in Quebec, influenza activity is very high and the emergency room is crowded. The question that many parents ask themselves (especially new ones) is therefore the following: When should you consult? According to NadiaDesmarais, we don't always have to go to the emergency room. “In the first two years of life, she tells us, children can contract between 8 and 12 viruses annually. It is normal for parents to have the impression that they are always sick. It is necessary to see a doctor if the fever is high and, despite taking ibuprofen, it does not decrease, it lasts for more than 48 hours or the general condition of the child is not Well. In short, we must monitor the state of our little one. Difficulty breathing and strange skin coloring are also symptoms that should raise alarm bells. Ms. Desmarais specifies that it is also a question of judgement: “Parents generally know their children very well. They know when something is wrong and they have to listen to their instincts. »
A tough myth
No, you can't get the flu just because you don't wear a toque. Nadia Desmarais is adamant about this: “It’s a myth. On the other hand, the germs enter through the respiratory tract and the mucous membranes which are weakened by the cold. In this case, the body is more prone to acquiring viruses. So dressing properly helps the body stay warmer and more resistant to germs.
Germs are everywhere, highly transmissible and the source of viral infections which, most of the time, will disappear as they appeared. Fortunately, as children get older, their immune systems strengthen andfewer infectious episodes.
- Use soap and water.
- Wet your hands.
- Apply soap.
- Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds.
- Wash the entire surface of your hands, including your fingernails, thumbs, and between your fingers.
- Rinse your hands under running water.
- Dry your hands properly.
- Turn off the tap with a paper towel or towel.