While there’s no protection against germs at school or the workplace, there are ways to reduce the risks.


“Germs is a nonmedical term for any organism that can cause an infection,” says Dr. Nieves. What kind of infections? Kids, especially in schools, can contract respiratory infections as well as skin infections, says Dr. Nieves. To prevent the spread of germs, especially in classrooms, parents,  teachers and caregivers should make sure children are instructed on proper hygiene techniques, like handwashing.

Children should wash their hands:

  • Before eating
  • After going to the bathroom
  • After blowing their nose
  • After playtime


Sharing may be a good way for kids to learn social skills, but it’s not the best way to stay healthy, Dr. Nieves says. To shield children from “germ  monsters,” Dr. Nieves advises parents to encourage their children not to share items like utensils, food and drink. Also, making sure they are up-to-date on their vaccines and seasonal flu shot is key.


If you’re not sure when soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizers are in order, do a hand check. “When you see actual dirt and grime, you need soap and water,” says Dr. Nieves.  “You can use hand sanitizer when you know your child has touched something that may be contaminated, such as a door knob.”


It’s best for kids to stay home when sick, but if missing work to care for them isn’t an option, parents should ensure good communication with the school to minimize the spread of germs to other students. “If kids have a cold, they have to be extra cautious, washing their hands after touching their face or nose,” says Dr. Nieves.


  • Kids should spend 15 seconds vigorously washing their hands.
  • 60% is the lowest percentage of alcohol a hand sanitizer should contain.
  • 9-to-1 is the ratio of bleach to water in a solution that parents can make to kill germs.

Meet Dr Nieves - CHOC Research Specialist, Pediatric Infectious Diseases

Dr. Nieves began her work at CHOC in 2010. She completed her pediatric residency at CHOC and postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases at the Mattel Children’s Hospital. Her clinical interests include infectious diseases of newborns and the immuno-compromised, with a  focus on pertussis. Her published works include “The Common Cold: Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases,” and several peer reviewed studies on the topic of pertussis in young infants.

Dr. Nieves’ philosophy of care: “I think the most important thing is to empower parents and children to be able to take care of themselves.”

University of Washington School of Medicine

General Pediatrics and Pediatric
Infectious Diseases


Dr. Delma Nieves, CHOC Research Specialist, Pediatric Infectious Diseases

Reduce the Risks of Cold and Flu Bugs

It’s cold and flu season! While there’s no protection against germs at school or the workplace, there are ways to reduce the risks.

Your child might have a cold if he or she has a stuffy, runny nose, a sore throat, a hacking cough or sneezes frequently. The flu spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Signs of the flu include fatigue and weakness, a high fever, severe aches and pains, headache and a cough.

To help prevent these bad bugs, remind your little ones – and yourself – to:

  • Wash hands often to keep from spreading germs.
  • Place travel-size hand sanitizer in their backpacks.
  • Postpone play dates with sick kids.
  • Bundle up to stay warm. Wear appropriate outdoor clothing.
  • Consider getting your child a flu shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends yearly flu shots for all children ages 6 months and older. The best time to get the shot is October or November, however it’s not too late to get it now!

Boy washing his hands in the bathroom sink

Germ Busters

Washing your hands is the number one way to protect yourself from getting sick. The experts at CHOC Community Education Department have developed a program called Germ Busters, where kids become “GERMBUSTERS” where they learn how to protect themselves against germs when someone coughs or sneezes. They also learn the importance of proper hand washing and figure out how easily germs are spread through a fun glitter experiment, book and video.

Call (714) 509-8887 to schedule a class.

Knowledge is the best medicine. Learn more about your child's health in these features from the experts at CHOC.

Fighting the Flu
When late fall rolls around, the flu usually rolls in with it. A cough, a high fever and sore throat are early signs of influenza.

When Your Baby Needs Surgery
In this health feature, Dr. Mustafa Kabeer, a CHOC pediatric surgeon, offers advice to parents for preparing their infant for surgery.

Drowning Prevention
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths among children ages 1–4. Dr. Goodman says backyard pools are often to blame.

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