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Do Children Carry More Germs Than Adults?

by Christina Schnell, studioD

No matter how much you love your kids, there's no denying their inherently germ-filled nature. Just one look at a runny-nosed preschooler racing around a playground explains why kids are such harbingers of bacteria: They collect, transfer and carry more germs and bacteria than adults, and at a faster rate, according to the Children's Hospital of St. Louis. These factors -- plus a few others -- are what makes young children such effective germ-carriers.

Move Morevement

Carrying germs requires lots of movement between areas, people and objects. You may accompany your child to the beach or the playground, but they're more likely to touch a wider variety of surfaces by using the equipment, playing with the toys or simply sitting or laying on the ground. The fact that many other germ-carrying kids often share these venues help children collect and carry even more germs, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

Less Gross Factor

Young children don't fully recognize the hazards of germs and bacteria, so they may not think twice when they collect -- and ultimately carry -- a significant number of harmful germs by touching or doing something adults would consider unseemly or "gross." A young toddler, for example, may consider fresh dog feces a comparable material to play-dough, while a slightly older child may attempt to curiously handle a dead bird or squirrel they find in a park. Both scenarios are unlikely to happen among adults which reduces their exposure to germs.

More Direct Transfer

Contact with bodily fluids are among the most effective ways to transfer germs, which helps explain why children carry so many more than adults. Adults often refrain from sharing cups or silverware, and they're certainly not licking their phone, sucking on their shoes or putting lollypops found on the floor into their mouths, but most young children do all three. Not only does this close contact invite a wider collection of germs, it also allows them to transfer those germs to other children exhibiting the same developmentally-appropriate behavior.

Less Washing

If you've watched a small child wash her hands without direct adult supervision you know the job she does is hardly sufficient. A combination of washing hands infrequently -- and doing a less than thorough job even when they do -- is one of the reasons why children carry so many germs, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Teaching young children to wash their hands correct by wetting, soaping, then scrubbing vigorously for 20 seconds followed by a thorough rinsing can help reduce the germ load kids carry.

About the Author

Christina Bednarz Schnell began writing full-time in 2010. Her areas of expertise include child development and behavior, medical conditions and pet health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international relations.

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