The 101 on Germs for Massage Therapists & Personal Care Services Providers

The 101 on Germs for Massage Therapists & Personal Care Services Providers

By: Selena Belisle, Owner/Instructor CE Institute LLC, Miami FL

When working in the spa, salon or massage therapy industry, you may find yourself in close continuous contact with other people. As such, it is important to learn about pathology and the different types of germs that may enter your workspace or be transmitted through your daily practices. 

Infectious diseases are caused by germs (also called microbes or microorganisms).  Germs can get into our bodies and reproduce, causing symptoms that make us feel sick. Germs can spread by leaving one person and entering another which is why some sometimes infectious diseases are also called communicable or contagious disease. Germs that cause disease are also called pathogens.  How to eliminate germs are covered in some of our other BLOGs here at CE Institute LLC.

Here is some basic information about the most common 4 types of germs and how they can spread from one person to another.  The 4 types of germs that we will review in this BLOG for massage therapists and personal care services providers are virus, bacteria fungi and protozoa:

1. Viruses

Viruses are the most common cause of illness. They are very small. Viruses can’t live on surfaces for very long. The common cold is a group of symptoms caused by 200 different viruses. There are always more cold viruses that they haven’t had yet identified. Viruses also cause intestinal and respiratory flu. Antibiotics kill bacteria but cannot kill viruses! Antibiotics should not be used to treat illnesses caused by viruses because they cannot eliminate a virus. Luckily, we get better from most viral illnesses without medical treatment.  

2. Bacteria

Bacteria are more complex than viruses. They can live and reproduce independently. Some can survive on surfaces for a long time, feeding off dirt or food and water. Most are harmless or even beneficial to us. They help us to digest food as well as prevent infections caused by harmful bacteria. Common bacterial infections include some ear infections, some cases of diarrhea, strep throat, and urinary tract infections. Bacteria can also cause more serious infections such as tuberculosis, whooping cough, staph infections and the less often but very serious bacterial pneumonia or bacterial meningitis.

3. Fungi

Fungi includes yeasts and molds and they are everywhere. They can survive on surfaces for long periods. Fungi can cause common skin infections such as:

  • thrush
  • ringworm
  • athlete's foot
  • scalp infections, i.e. tinea capitis
  • nail infections
  • many many many different types of infections

Fungal infections are bothersome and can sometimes take months to go away, but they don’t cause serious illness in people with healthy immune systems. They regularly do not spread and cause infection in the rest of the body in healthy people.

Mold can be found anywhere there is constant moisture, like salons, spas or bathrooms. You cannot “catch” mold from another person. Mold can cause irritations of the eye, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, and can trigger asthma. It can produce an allergic reaction in some people. The best way to control mold indoors is to get rid of moisture seeing mold thrives in a damp environment.

4. Protozoa

Protozoa are microscopic germs – some are considered “good”, some are “bad”.  They are one-celled organisms that can be free-living or parasitic in nature[i]. They are able to multiply in humans, which contributes to their survival.  Protozoa can also create serious infections in humans from one single organism.

How Bodily Fluid Germs are Spread

  1. Direct Contact is when body fluids are directly transferred from one person to another. Examples of direct contact are touching and kissing. An animal bite is another example.
  1. Droplets is when secretions fly out of noses and mouths (when we sneeze, cough, spit, drool, slobber, or vomit) into the air and then land on a hard surface or are inhaled by another person - which is how COVID-19 is thought to spread today.
  • Droplets can fly only a short distance (such as a sneeze). If these human droplets land on another’s eye, nose, or mouth they can spread disease.
  • Germs can also be spread when we touch droplets (from another person) that land on a surface like a table and then touch our own eyes, mouth, or nose before washing their hands.
  • Most of the germs that can be spread by direct contact can also be spread by droplets.
  • Germs that can spread by droplets are more contagious than germs that require direct contact. When an infection can spread between people that are only near each other, the infection is more contagious. Diseases caused by viruses and bacteria can be spread this way.
  • Fungi and parasites are not transmitted by droplets.

Germs can live longer on stainless steel, plastic, and similar hard surfaces than they do on fabric and other soft surfaces. Germs also live longer when the surface is wet and dirty. Food and water on a surface provide germs with all they need to survive and multiply! When droplets land on a hard surface like a table or a doorknob, the viruses in those droplets can live several hours or more. Bacteria can live for even longer.

To recap, there are a number of ways that these germs can be transmitted from one person to another. Contaminated work surfaces, inadequate cleaning, dirty hands or work equipment and coughing or sneezing without covering your mouth are popular methods for the spread of germs.  As such, it is important to not work when you are sick and practice good hand hygiene plus effective cleaning and disinfection practices to prevent the spread of germs.  Frequent and extra sanitation efforts should be made in high-traffic areas to minimize the growth and/or spread of these tiny microbes.  It is our duty as service providers to be aware of what germs are, and how they spread, so that we know what may be lingering around our office.  Please click HERE to view our Sanitation BLOG where you can find information about how to eliminate germs in the workplace.

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Author Selena Belisle is the Founder of CE Institute LLC in Miami FL.  She is a retired professional athlete and has been practicing massage therapy for over 30 years.  Selena is an approved CE Provider with NCBTMB & the Florida Board of Massage.  She now teaches full time for the Complementary and Alternative Health Care Industries. You can learn more about Selena’s training and CE classes at www.CeInstitute.com

[i] “Parasites”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 April 2016, https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/about.html

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