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What are germs and how do they spread?

Discover the most common types of germs and how to help prevent them from spreading

What are Germs


Germs are microorganisms that are everywhere. You can only see them under a microscope due to their microscopic size. You can find germs in the air, soil, water, food, our bodies, and just about any surface. Many germs live inside and on our bodies without causing any harm. However, some germs can cause illnesses. By knowing how germs function you can increase your chances of avoiding different kinds of infection. This article will cover essential aspects of what are germs, how germs spread, the different types and how to avoid them.

Types of Germs

  • Bacteria

Bacteria are one-celled organisms that can be seen only through a microscope. Despite their small size, all bacteria are not harmful. Some of these microscopic bacteria can be beneficial. They can help the digestive system function optimally and prevent harmful bacteria from entering the body. Other disease-causing bacteria produce toxins and can cause illnesses and infections. These include urinary tract infections, throat infections, boils, abscesses, sepsis etc. Healthcare providers prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.

  • Viruses

The main difference between viruses and bacteria is that viruses are smaller than bacteria. They are not even complete cells and are genetic material packaged inside a protein coating. Viruses need other living cells. They require a host with living cells to reproduce. Once they find a host, like a human body, they spread quickly, making the individual sick. While some viruses can cause minor illnesses like cold or flu, others cause severe illnesses like Measles, HIV/AIDS, Covid etc. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. However, doctors treat a few viral infections with antiviral medication.

  • Fungi

Fungi are multi-cell plant-like organisms. They thrive in warm and damp environments while deriving nutrients from plants, food and animals. Mushrooms, moulds and yeast are types of fungi. Common fungal infection are athlete’s foot, ring worm, yeast infections etc. In immunocompromised patients, they may cause severe infection

 Anti-fungal medications are used to treat fungal infections.

  • Protozoa

Protozoa are single-celled organisms like bacteria. However, they are bigger in size compared to bacteria and contain a nucleus, making them similar to plant and animal cells. Protozoa spread diseases mainly through contaminated water. 

They cause diseases such as giardiasis, malaria, etc.

Protozoa spend their cycle outside humans or other hosts and live in food, soil, water or insects. But some protozoa are like parasites, needing to live in or on a plant or animal to survive. Protozoans that cause malaria invade the body through mosquito bites. Parasitic infections are often treated with anti-parasite drugs.

Each type of germ has unique characteristics and affects humans and the environment differently. Bacteria are single-celled organisms that come in different shapes, viruses are tiny organisms that need a host to multiply, fungi are multicellular organisms with hyphal structures, and lastly, protozoa are single-celled organisms that come in diverse shapes. Understanding these differences is essential to identify and develop strategies to prevent and protect yourself from germs that cause illnesses.

How do Germs Spread

Germs can spread in various ways like –

  • Suppose you touch or have close contact with a person who has germs in body. These include activities like hugging, kissing, sharing utensils etc.
  • Inhaling air after someone who has the germ sneezes or coughs.
  • Touching the faeces of a person who has germs. This can happen by changing your baby’s diaper and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes.
  • Touching objects or surfaces that carry the germ and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes.

Other ways through which the spread of germs can happen: -

  • Mother to baby during pregnancy or childbirth
  • Animal or insect bites
  • Contaminated food, water, soil or plants.

Protection from germs

What can I do to avoid the spread of germs?

There are numerous ways in which a person can prevent the spread of germs. Some steps to follow are: -

  • Hand Hygiene: - The best thing to do is wash your hands with Dettol Soap or Dettol Liquid Hand Wash and water for at least 20 seconds. Wash your hands before preparing or eating your meals, after coughing or sneezing, after using the toilet etc.. When water and soap are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser like Dettol hand sanitiser.
  • Vaccines: - Vaccination is an effective line of defence against specific diseases. Many vaccines are given in childhood. However, adults still require some vaccines to prevent illnesses like Tetanus, Influenzas, Covid, Hepatitis A, Pneumococcal etc. but awareness of adult vaccination program is low.
  • Respiratory Etiquette:- A great tip to prevent infections is to sneeze or cough into your elbow or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or handkerchief, especially in public spaces.
  • Sanitation and Disinfection:- Regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces frequently touched with Dettol Disinfectant Spray will help get rid of harmful microorganisms, reduce the risk of infection and promote a healthier environment.
  • Healthy Lifestyle Habits: - Practicing healthy habits like good hand and personal hygiene, eating a balanced diet and staying physically active can help strengthen the immune system. This, in turn, helps the body fight infections and brings down the risk of spreading germs to others.


Germs are small but powerful organisms that are found all around us. They have the ability to affect both human health and the environment. Through this article, you have learnt about the different types of germs and their effects which can help you prevent infections and promote a healthy lifestyle. By adopting simple hygiene practices, following food safety measures and staying updated about vaccinations, we can protect ourselves from the harmful effects of germs and live a healthy life.

Disclaimer: All reasonable steps have been taken to ensure the accuracy of the published material (“Material”), however the Material shall not be treated as medical advice in any manner. The Material is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a qualified doctor for any form of medical advice and guidance. The Material is published without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. The responsibility for the interpretation and use of the Material lies with the reader. In no event shall Reckitt Benckiser (India) Private Limited or its affiliates be liable for any damages or any other consequence arising from the use of the Material.

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