In short, germs can affect you in all sorts of ways – quite literally from your head to your toes. By taking steps to avoid catching germs and passing them on to your loved ones, you’ll help make life that much easier every day.

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Germs are tiny organisms that can cause disease. They come in all shapes and sizes – bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites – and they can be found practically everywhere, from soil to water to on our bodies.

Some germs are beneficial, such as the ‘good bacteria’ that lives in our gut and plays a key role in gut health, but as for the bad guys? It’s a good idea to take steps to protect yourself against not-so-nice germs and the discomfort and disease they may carry.

Here’s some useful information to know about catching germs, spreading germs, and how germs affect you if they do happen to cross your path.

Tips to avoid catching germs

It’s inevitable that you’ll catch germs every once in a while. Someone might come to work while infectious, the kids might bring a bug home from school, or perhaps you’re tasked with looking after a loved one who’s unwell. Here are some ways you can avoid catching germs even if you’re in close proximity to them.

1. Practice good hygiene

If you’re spending time with someone unwell, make sure you clean all surfaces regularly, as well as items they have used well (such as plates and cutlery). Wash your hands frequently and apply hand sanitiser such as Crystawash Extend as an extra precaution.

2. Consider getting the flu shot

Ask your doctor or pharmacist about getting an annual flu shot. While it won’t protect you against all germs, it might help if you come into contact with the annual flu strain(s).

In New Zealand, many Kiwis are eligible for free flu shots, either through government funding or their workplace. If you’re not eligible, most pharmacies and GPs charge between $25-$35, which is a small price to pay to avoid a week or more stuck in bed with aches and fatigue.

3. Keep your distance

Social distancing is becoming the ‘new normal’. If you know bugs are going around or you just want to play it safe, keep your distance from others. You can also politely decline to hug or shake hands with people.

Tips to avoid spreading germs

If you feel a tickle in your nose or throat or fatigue and muscle aches, the best thing to do is stay away from others. Call in sick, request to work or study from home, and take a raincheck on any social engagements. After the last year or two we’ve had, everyone in your life will understand (and likely appreciate) your decision to self-isolate.

However, if you have to be around other people (for example, those you live with), you can take some extra precautions to keep your germs to yourself.

Wash your hands often

One of the easiest and most effective ways to avoid spreading germs is to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly. To double down on germs, use Crystawash Extend Foaming Hand Sanitiser between hand washes.

Cough or sneeze into a tissue

Be sure to cough or sneeze into a tissue (or your elbow if you get caught short). Ideally, try to head outside if you feel coughing or sneezing fit coming on.

Wear a mask

While not a guarantee against spreading germs, mask wearing can definitely help you keep germs to yourself.

How do germs affect you?

Different germs affect people in different ways. How your body reacts to germs depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of germs you’ve been exposed to and your immune system.

Some examples of common conditions caused by germs include viruses, fungal infections, and gastroenteritis (stomach bugs).

Viruses tend to cause headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, as well as a cocktail of other unpleasant symptoms. Common viruses include glandular fever, the flu, and of course, Covid-19.

Fungal infections, such as Athlete’s Foot and ringworm, will often make themselves obvious on skin and nails (although they can also affect internal organs).

Gastroenteritis – often caused by the campylobacter bacteria – can cause pain, fever, cramping, and diarrhoea. Plenty of rest and fluids, and an antidiarrheal agent such as DiaRelieve, can aid recovery.

Disclamer: This content is for informational purposes only and should not substitute advice from your healthcare professional. If symptoms persist or you require specialist advice, please consult your healthcare professional.