Visit our foundation to give a gift.
View Locations Near Me
Main Campus – Hartford
Connecticut Children’s – Waterbury
Urgent Care – Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Danbury
Connecticut Children’s Surgery Center at Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Fairfield
Search All Locations
Find a doctor
Find A Doctor
Request an Appointment
Amenities and Services
Who’s Who on Care Team
Getting Ready for Surgery
What to Expect—Picture Stories
Understanding the Different Fees
Estimate of Financial Liability
Pay a Bill
United Technologies Family Resource Center
Family Advisory Council
Legal Advocacy: Benefits, Education, Housing
Electronic Health Records
Share Your Story
Pay a Bill
Login to MyChart
Clinical Support Services Referrals
About the Network
Join the Network
Graduate Medical Education
Continuing Medical Education
MOC/Practice Quality Improvement
Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC)
Learning & Performance
Meet our Physician Relations Team
Request Medical Records
Join our Referring Provider Advisory Board
View our Physician Callback Standards
Read & Subscribe to Medical News
Register for Email Updates
Update Your Practice Information
Refer a Patient
Find and Print Health Info
Health Information For Parents
The term “germs” refers to the microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that can cause disease.
Washing hands well and often is the best way to prevent germs from leading to infections and sickness.
Bacteria (bak-TEER-ee-uh) are tiny, single-celled organisms that get nutrients from their environments. In some cases, that environment is your child or some other living being.
Some bacteria are good for our bodies — they help keep the digestive system in working order and keep harmful bacteria from moving in. Some bacteria are used to make medicines and vaccines.
But bacteria can cause trouble too, as with cavities, urinary tract infections, ear infections, or strep throat. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections.
Viruses are even smaller than bacteria. They aren’t even a full cell. They are simply genetic material (DNA or RNA) packaged inside of a protein coating. They need to use another cell’s structures to reproduce. This means they can’t survive unless they’re living inside something else (such as a person, animal, or plant).
Viruses can only live for a very short time outside other living cells. For example, viruses in infected body fluids left on surfaces like a doorknob or toilet seat can live there for a short time. They’ll die quickly unless a live host comes along.
Wen they’ve moved into someone’s body, though, viruses spread easily and can make a person sick. Viruses cause minor sicknesses like colds, common illnesses like the flu, and very serious diseases like smallpox or HIV/AIDS.
Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Antiviral medicines have been developed against a small, select group of viruses.
Fungi (FUN-guy) are multicelled, plant-like organisms. A fungus gets nutrition from plants, food, and animals in damp, warm environments.
Many fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot and yeast infections, are not dangerous in a healthy person. People with weak immune systems (from diseases like HIV or cancer), though, may get more serious fungal infections.
Protozoa (pro-toe-ZO-uh) are one-celled organisms, like bacteria. But they are bigger than bacteria and contain a nucleus and other cell structures, making them more like plant and animal cells.
Protozoa love moisture. So intestinal infections and other diseases they cause, like amebiasis and giardiasis, often spread through contaminated water. Some protozoa are parasites. This means they need to live on or in another organism (like an animal or plant) to survive. For example, the protozoa that causes malaria grows inside red blood cells, eventually destroying them. Some protozoa are encapsulated in cysts, which help them live outside the human body and in harsh environments for long periods of time.
Washing your hands well and often is the best way to keep from getting sick. Here’s how to teach this all-important habit to your kids.
Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa can cause disease. Here’s how to help protect your family from germs.
A middle ear infection happens when germs like bacteria and viruses get in your middle ear and cause trouble. Read this article to find out more.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is making people sick with flu-like symptoms. Read this article to learn how to protect your family, and to know when to call your doctor.
Sometimes, germs can get into food and cause food poisoning. Find out what to do if your child gets food poisoning – and how to prevent it.
Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection marked by severe diarrhea. Here’s how to protect your family.
Washing your hands is the best way to stop germs from spreading. Learn all about the best way to wash your hands in this article for kids.
Did you know that the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands? If you don’t wash your hands frequently, you can pick up germs from other sources and then infect yourself.
These bacterial infections can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. Good hand-washing and food safety habits can help prevent them.
Shigella are bacteria that can infect the digestive tract and cause a wide range of symptoms, from diarrhea, cramping, vomiting, and nausea, to more serious complications and illnesses.
Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection and severe diarrhea. Here’s how to protect yourself.
Coxsackievirus infections can spread from person to person. In most cases, the viruses cause mild flu-like symptoms, but can lead to more serious infections.
MRSA is a type of bacteria that the usual antibiotics can’t tackle anymore. The good news is that there are some simple ways to protect yourself from being infected. Find out how.
MRSA is a type of bacteria that the usual antibiotics can’t tackle anymore. Simple precautions can help protect your kids from becoming infected.
When skin is punctured or broken for any reason, staph bacteria can enter the wound and cause an infection. But good hygiene can prevent many staph infections. Learn more.
Germs are tiny organisms that can cause disease – and they’re so small that they can creep into your system without you noticing. Find out how to protect yourself.
The germs that get into food and cause food poisoning are tiny, but can have a powerful effect on the body. Find out what to do if you get food poisoning – and how to prevent it.
Did you ever eat something that made you feel ooky? It might have been food poisoning.
Most kids battle diarrhea from time to time, so it’s importantÂ to know what to do to relieve and even prevent it.
Taking antibiotics too often or for the wrong reason has led to a dangerous rise in bacteria that no longer respond to medicine. Find out what you can do to prevent antibiotic overuse.
Nearly everybody gets diarrhea every once in a while, and it’s usually caused by gastrointestinal infections. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Read this article to learn more.
Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating contaminated food. It mostly affects pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. Here’s how to protect your family.
You know they can hurt you, but what are these invisible creatures? Find out in this article for kids.
An abscess is a sign of an infection, usually on the skin. Find out what to do if your child develops one.
Why is food safety important? And how can you be sure your kitchen and the foods you prepare in it are safe?
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.