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The Hard Truth of Summer: School’s Not Out For Germs

At long last, we’ve made it. Finally, the sweetest season of the year has arrived. The sun is out, the grill’s warming up and the days are long and full of fun.

If only sickly germs and bacteria took summer vacations. We now apologetically interrupt your summer vacation to bring you and your family this bumming reminder that this is not the time of year to go to sleep on your family’s Germ Defense Plan.

This is not the news weary parents still catching their breaths from one of the worst U.S. cold and flu seasons in recent memory want to hear, but this summer’s full frontal assault of health hazards means parents must stay vigilant against viral infections.

Alas, like Cal Ripken Jr., bad dad jokes and the calendar, harmful germs and bacteria don’t take days off.

Summertime viral infections commonly cause upper respiratory infections and sometimes additional secondary infections, cautions Phoenix pediatrician Stan Spinner.

“It can lead into a secondary ear infection, which again is usually caused by bacteria. We would treat that,” Spinner told NBC News in May. “It can lead to pneumonia. If it’s a virus we can only treat the symptoms. If it’s bacterial pneumonia, usually children will get sicker with that.”

For example, fever and diarrhea can lead to secondary infections.

From the first day of summer vacations, parents need to be on guard for their kids as potentially harmful germs and bacteria are lurking around every corner.

“We are surrounded by bacteria all the time,” Marilyn Roberts, a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, told USA Today.

And a smart family summer germ protection plan starts with your family’s plane trip. Forget boarding passes, germs and bacteria sneak onto planes by the billions. They hang out in the airport, the overhead bins, on the tray tables, in the aisles (be sure to say bless you to that allergy-ailing woman sneezing up a tornado in the aisle seat) bathroom ands and on the windows.

“Traveling can be nerve-wracking for a number of reasons, but the possibility of getting sick is a big one,” said Richard Hale, D.O., a Geisinger Family Medicine provider, told WebMD. “From dry air on the plane to dirty surfaces, it’s important to remember to wash your hands and keep some other basic hygiene practices in mind.”

The Airplane Germ Defense Plan

Wearing a mask can protect you from harmful germs. Use B4 Brands’ Avant Foaming Hand Sanitizer, and bring wipes with you to wipe down public areas near your seat. For Public Enemy No. 1 just may be resting incognito on your tray table.

“The flu virus can live on hard surfaces like your tray table, armrests and the handle of the bathroom,” Dr. Hale said.

The safest seat on the plane also has the best view. A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences found that people who sat in window seats were less likely to come into contact with germs that could make them sick.

The Dark Side of The Pool

No one truly lives the summer dream without making at least one trip to their local pool. Unfortunately, the public pool is Ground Zero for sickly germs and bacteria, who hoard space like they own the place. As refreshing as a day at the pool is, remember you are wading in a public bath filled with strangers’ germs and dirt.

“Every time you move, you’re releasing a million microbes and that’s all going into the water,” Jason Tetro, a Canadian microbiologist and bestselling author, told Global News.

For as hard as chloride works to keep pools clean and disinfected, it can’t kill all of the billions of harmful pathogens living in the water. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports 58 percent of America’s public pools tested positive for E. coli in a recent study. Feces and urine reside in virtually every American public pool and water park. All this leads to Recreational Water Illnesses (RWI), illnesses caused by germs and bacteria present in the water we swim in. From gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurological and wound infections, RWIs sicken people in a variety of serious ways.

So how to we stay safe in these scary summer waters? Follow the CDC’s Steps of Healthy Swimming.

  • Check The Pool
  • Check To Ensure There Is A Lifeguard On Duty
  • Stay Out of the Water If You Have a Stomach Flu, Diarrhea or Are Generally Not Feeling Well
  • Shower Before You Swim

The Places We Go

From hotels (where they have year-round reservations) to farmer’s markets (where they hang out on tasty fresh fruit and produce) to picnic tables (birds aren’t the greatest at picking up after themselves) to public restrooms (AKA, germ heaven) to sandals and flip flops (who has ever thought to de-germ their shoes before putting them on in the morning?), germs and bacteria follow us virtually everywhere we roam during the summer. If we play, travel and relax absent-mindedly, they can easily crash our vacation and have you and your family singing the Summertime Sick Blues.

“Anything at a public park, the swing set, benches, the playground, can be filthy,” Dr. Keri Peterson, a New York City internist and self-described “crazy germophobe,” told The Weather Channel.

“Patio tables can be filthy. Most people are much more diligent about cleaning their indoor table furniture. (Also) when you’re eating at an outdoor event, people aren’t going inside to wash their hands.”

Be aware that sickly germs and bacteria are at play wherever you and your family live the summer dream. Summer colds typically last longer than winter colds.

“One of the reasons we’re more susceptible to respiratory infections (in the summer) is we’re in a dry, air-conditioned environment,” Peterson said.

But being aware of where the germs and bacteria of summer are lurking and how they spread is half the battle to keeping your family safe, cool and enjoying the sunniest and funniest days of the year.

We now happily return you to your regularly scheduled summer vacation.