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How long can germs stay alive on a piece of paper?I am trying very hard not to get sick...

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 31, 2011 at 4:38 AM via web

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How long can germs stay alive on a piece of paper?

I am trying very hard not to get sick this year.  When a student hands me a piece of paper, I try not to touch it.  Am I being silly?  Can I get sick from the paper?  How long after an ill child touches the paper can I get sick from it?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 31, 2011 at 5:05 AM (Answer #2)

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According to one source, cold and flu germs can live from a few minutes to several days outside the body. They are more likely to stay active on hard surfaces--such as stainless steel and plastic--than on soft surfaces or fabrics. Flu viruses live longer than cold viruses; temperature and humidity also have an effect on the life cycle. Washing hands often is still considered the best way to fight catching someone's else's germs.

 

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boblawrence | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted October 31, 2011 at 6:33 AM (Answer #3)

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Your question implies that your major concern is the flu or the common cold.  The viruses that cause these are present in the oral and nasal secretions of the sufferer.  Colds are often transmitted through hand-to-mouth or nose contact after your hand has touched something recently contaminated by the sick person.  The medical term for an inert object upon which germs can reside and be transferred to another is "fomite".  Flu and common cold viruses need moisture and a close to normal salinity to survive outside the body.  Thus, contaminated porous surfaces (cloth) tend to extract the water from the secretion, thereby killing the viruses relatively quickly.  On a hard surface such as a telephone mouthpiece, the secretion could remain moist for many minutes or even a half hour.  On a piece of paper the survival would be intermediate between cloth and hard plastic.  It is unlikely that you could pick up flu or cold viruses by touching a completely dry piece of paper.  On the other hand, you might get sick if you licked a dry piece of contaminated paper if it were contaminated up to 30 minutes before.

Bottom line is this:  Be aware of what is on your hands.  If your hands are contaminated, then wash your hands before touching yourself, especially before touching your eyes, nose or mouth.  A dry paper handed in by an ill student poses little risk.  If in doubt, wash your hands or use hand cleaner.

I hope you make it through the entire semester without catching a cold or the flu.

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted October 31, 2011 at 10:00 AM (Answer #4)

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Another thing to consider is that simply having your hands touch this mythical sick-paper (if it were highly contaminated) would not be enough to make you sick.  If you have cuts on your hands and/or are the kind of person who continually touches your face, then those would be a couple of issues to correct in order to increase prevention.  Keeping anti-bacterial wipes and/or hand sanitizer on your desk can help, too.  I would also highly recommend getting a flu shot.  Every school district I have been involved in offed flu shots free for teachers each year.

Would you like to know something else that has helped me stay well (both in the classroom and otherwise)?  Wearing glasses instead of contacts!  I actually just completed a little "science experiment" testing my theory.  If you would like to hear it, read on.  If not, then skip to the next post.

Thesis:  If I wear a pair of glasses during the entire school year, then I will get fewer sicknesses from my children (and elsewhere).

Background:

Let me just say that I became tired of getting sick so many times during the school year.  Forget it, … actually, I became tired of getting sick so many times since I had children.  I also need corrective eyewear which required me to wear either glasses or contacts.  For a long time, I had chosen contacts.

Well, I’m a big snuggler with my kids (much to my kids’ dismay, ha!), … and I’m not sure about yours, but my little kids really do a lot of spewing:  sneezes, spits, coughs, sputtering, loud letter “p”s, etc.  Yes, I had noticed this, but thought I was astute enough to keep the compounding germs out of my eyes.  As my kids entered school, I noticed that I would only have a couple of weeks of wellness between sicknesses.  I didn’t like this.

Then came the tipping point:  one evening, I had some chips with really spicy salsa.  A few hours later, I went to remove my contacts before bed.  Knowing I had some salsa hours before, I thought I better scrub my hands really well.  I did, … washing them three times and using a nail brush to get under the nails.  Finally, I was satisfied that my hands and nails were thoroughly sanitized.  Well, when I took my contacts out, I STILL felt the sting of some tiny molecules of that salsa get in there.  (It hurt.)  This made me stop in my tracks.  Did this mean I was getting my kids germs in my eyes each evening, despite my hand washing?  Further, did wearing actual glasses put an actual physical barrier in between my eyes and spewing germs?

I decided to take a full year and try it out.

During the 2010-2011 school year, I wore glasses.  (Periodically, I would take my glasses off in the evening and observe the dried kid-spittle upon them and ogle.)  And you know what?  I DIDN’T GET SICK!!! I only got two tiny colds during the entire school year that I nipped in the bud using vitamin c, airborne, and other crazy methods I use to nip colds in the bud.  I was so happy!

Therefore, this school year, ya’ know what?  I’M WEARIN’ MY GLASSES!!!!

Procedure:  Really easy, … simply wear glasses all year and count the number of sicknesses.  (I had already counted the number of sicknesses the previous year while I was wearing contacts:  I would only have two weeks of wellness in between colds/sickness for the entire school year.

Conclusion:  My thesis was correct, because I wore a pair of glasses during the entire school year, I got fewer sicknesses:  only two colds compared to a cold every two weeks.  Therefore, wearing a pair of glasses makes a physical barrier between the germy world and my eyes and also prevents me from actually touching my eyes each night and morning, therefore reducing the number of sicknesses I get each year.

Noelle Thompson

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pacorz | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted October 31, 2011 at 10:43 AM (Answer #5)

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Colds and flu are caused by viruses, which are technically not living to begin with. However every virus has specific host tissues which it is designed to attach to; for the viruses you are concerned about, those tissues are in the nose, eye sockets, mouth, and upper respiratory tract. Posts #3 and #4 are correct - if you can train yourself to keep your hands off your face, you will greatly cut down the number of viruses you unwittingly give yourself.And I wouldn't be paranoid about the paper - anything that a sick student has touched, sneezed on, or breathed on, or that his or her exhaled respiratory droplets have settled on, will have viruses on it. I'd suggest that you redirect your attention to your own habits. Keep your hands off your face. Get plenty of sleep - a single night of poor sleep can depress the immune system for several subsequent days - and air your classroom out from time to time. And relax! Stress lowers the immune system. Instead of "trying to not get sick", try to take a walk every day. It's more likely to help.

 

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marbar57 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted November 1, 2011 at 12:29 AM (Answer #6)

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I like Post #2, but would like to add a little bit more to it! 

When it comes to getting sick, I know we're all a little paranoid about germs! That's why I carry a bottle of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in my purse and car, and use them both several times a day. We need to be careful and clean, not only in our persons but in our surroundings.

But, there are three other very important ways to keep from getting ill: building and maintaining a healthy immune system, getting adequate and consistent exercise, and always eating right! These three methods give our bodies the necessary tools they need to fight off germs in the unlikely event that germs get in.

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted November 1, 2011 at 12:42 AM (Answer #7)

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It depends on the type of germ as to how long it can live on paper.  I don't think it's crazy to try to touch as little as possible of the student's papers, but it might be unrealistic.  I did know a teacher who sprayed her student's papers with Lysol, but there's really an easier way.  You're not likely to catch a cold through your fingers.  We usually get sick when we have germs on our hands and then touch our eyes, nose, etc.  I didn't worry about touching the student's paper, but I did make sure to wash my hands or use hand sanitizer afterwards (especially if students in the class were obviously ill).  I tried to remember not to touch my face while grading papers and I had to break the habit of grading papers while eating my lunch.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 1, 2011 at 2:26 AM (Answer #8)

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I think you run a much greater risk from other surfaces such as door handles and telephones, the copier, and, ironically, your computer keyboard, than from student papers.  As a teacher, some studies have shown we have stronger immune systems given our repeated and almost daily exposure to a wide variety of germs and viruses brought to us by students and co-workers.  The old adage is true, though, being almost obsessive about washing your hands is the best protection, and maybe take a disinfecting wipe to your keyboard after reading this.

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:39 AM (Answer #9)

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I will play devil's advocate and put forth the opinion that you should be exposing your body to a certain amount of germs every day to keep your immune system functioning and strong. Without the germs popping in for a visit, your immune system will become weak and then not be able to function correctly against a stronger attack. Therefore, I would take each paper by hand and not worry about it beyond not touching your face and washing your hands thoroughly after classes.

I work at a theater, where the customers don't wash their hands and touch everything in sight and it is repulsive -- I seriously think I can see a coating of germs on every seat -- and all I do is avoid touching my face and wash my hands a lot. My hands are a little chapped, but I haven't had the flu for over three years (no shots either, but that's because I can't afford them).

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:14 AM (Answer #10)

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I don't know about paper, but one of my colleagues taught a socials class recently where she got her kids to read a report about the way that faecal matter was being found on phones and how diseases were being spread by students allowing their friends to use their cell phone. Disgusting, I know! However, I think that, as #9 establishes, we are better off accepting the fact that germs are a part of our life and focus on washing our hands a lot and taking other measures rather than trying to lead a bubble-like existence.

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loujwhite87 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:48 AM (Answer #11)

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Yeah great.. can you check this out..! <a href="http://www.relevantlifepolicyinsurance.co.uk/">Relevant Life Policy</a>

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mychmrmntic | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 10, 2011 at 12:41 AM (Answer #12)

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How long can germs stay alive on a piece of paper?

I am trying very hard not to get sick this year.  When a student hands me a piece of paper, I try not to touch it.  Am I being silly?  Can I get sick from the paper?  How long after an ill child touches the paper can I get sick from it?

It depends on the type of germs or bacteria on the paper. Viruses cannot live for a full minute outside of the body because they need a living host. It is silly though to try and not touch a paper and students can sense that and it would make an ill child feel even worse. The best thing to do it just keep a bottle of hand sanatizer on your desk and use if frequently throughout the day.

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alilion | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted December 13, 2011 at 8:55 PM (Answer #13)

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don't worry, germs don't last long up to 14 hours

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mamadoudiallo45 | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted December 28, 2011 at 12:55 AM (Answer #14)

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I don't think that you would get serious desease from paper, but just in case keep hand sanitizer available.

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krzystoff | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 7, 2012 at 12:42 PM (Answer #15)

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Another thing to consider is that simply having your hands touch this mythical sick-paper (if it were highly contaminated) would not be enough to make you sick.  If you have cuts on your hands and/or are the kind of person who continually touches your face, then those would be a couple of issues to correct in order to increase prevention.  Keeping anti-bacterial wipes and/or hand sanitizer on your desk can help, too.  I would also highly recommend getting a flu shot.  Every school district I have been involved in offed flu shots free for teachers each year.

Would you like to know something else that has helped me stay well (both in the classroom and otherwise)?  Wearing glasses instead of contacts!  I actually just completed a little "science experiment" testing my theory.  If you would like to hear it, read on.  If not, then skip to the next post.

Thesis:  If I wear a pair of glasses during the entire school year, then I will get fewer sicknesses from my children (and elsewhere).

Background:

Let me just say that I became tired of getting sick so many times during the school year.  Forget it, … actually, I became tired of getting sick so many times since I had children.  I also need corrective eyewear which required me to wear either glasses or contacts.  For a long time, I had chosen contacts.

Well, I’m a big snuggler with my kids (much to my kids’ dismay, ha!), … and I’m not sure about yours, but my little kids really do a lot of spewing:  sneezes, spits, coughs, sputtering, loud letter “p”s, etc.  Yes, I had noticed this, but thought I was astute enough to keep the compounding germs out of my eyes.  As my kids entered school, I noticed that I would only have a couple of weeks of wellness between sicknesses.  I didn’t like this.

Then came the tipping point:  one evening, I had some chips with really spicy salsa.  A few hours later, I went to remove my contacts before bed.  Knowing I had some salsa hours before, I thought I better scrub my hands really well.  I did, … washing them three times and using a nail brush to get under the nails.  Finally, I was satisfied that my hands and nails were thoroughly sanitized.  Well, when I took my contacts out, I STILL felt the sting of some tiny molecules of that salsa get in there.  (It hurt.)  This made me stop in my tracks.  Did this mean I was getting my kids germs in my eyes each evening, despite my hand washing?  Further, did wearing actual glasses put an actual physical barrier in between my eyes and spewing germs?

I decided to take a full year and try it out.

During the 2010-2011 school year, I wore glasses.  (Periodically, I would take my glasses off in the evening and observe the dried kid-spittle upon them and ogle.)  And you know what?  I DIDN’T GET SICK!!! I only got two tiny colds during the entire school year that I nipped in the bud using vitamin c, airborne, and other crazy methods I use to nip colds in the bud.  I was so happy!

Therefore, this school year, ya’ know what?  I’M WEARIN’ MY GLASSES!!!!

Procedure:  Really easy, … simply wear glasses all year and count the number of sicknesses.  (I had already counted the number of sicknesses the previous year while I was wearing contacts:  I would only have two weeks of wellness in between colds/sickness for the entire school year.

Conclusion:  My thesis was correct, because I wore a pair of glasses during the entire school year, I got fewer sicknesses:  only two colds compared to a cold every two weeks.  Therefore, wearing a pair of glasses makes a physical barrier between the germy world and my eyes and also prevents me from actually touching my eyes each night and morning, therefore reducing the number of sicknesses I get each year.

 don't forget the fact that you put your fingers in your eyes many times a day with contact lenses, and they also have an amazing habit of catching and trapping every microscopic spec of dust, grit, smoke, etc that blows near your face!!  as a glasses wearer and then contacts wearer for almost forty years (since preschool), I have learned that hard lenses are many times more unforgiving than soft lenses.  so it comes as no suprise that you get more infectious things finding their way into your eyes with contacts.  as for glasses, they don't tend to be much better than nothing at all -- the problem is, with either glasses or contacts, your eyes get used to being left open almost all the time, your blinking reflex becomes less and with glasses you have far less eye movement than is normal / healthy, so when things fly / blow into your face / under your glasses your reactions are dulled and your normal ability to flick those foregin matter out is minimal.  add to that the dry eye that is common for contacts/glasses wearing, and you have less ability to wash away the muck that gets in.

in the end, you have certainly seen the light, but getting laser surgery may be the revelation you need (if your visual problem is suitable for surgery).

albeit wearing good sunglasess outdoors is invaluable for any abd all, to protect their eyes' health.

 

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