What are bacteria?

So what exactly are bacteria?

BacteriaBacteria are microscopic organisms that live on, in and around people. They’re extremely common naturally and you can find them in almost every environment on the planet, for instance in the sea, the air and even in our own bodies.

Many bacteria are harmless and actually help us to stay healthy, for instance the good bacteria in our bodies help us to digest food and therefore keep us healthy.

Some bacteria live on our hands without causing problems, but when you come into contact with large numbers of bad germs that can survive on your hands, (especially if your hands are warm, moist and unwashed) these can be transferred from your hands to your mouth and this can cause illness.

It’s worth bearing in mind, while it takes at least 10,000 Salmonella cells to make you ill, certain types of E.coli require only 10 cells to cause disease. Don’t worry, the more dangerous forms of E.coli are very rare, but it’s well worth washing your hands just in case.

How bacteria can make us ill

Problems tend to occur when organisms move from one place to another for some reason. This is usually when disease starts. E.coli can move from faeces to hands to food, when hands have not been washed properly, and cause food borne disease and very real sickness.

Our hands come into contact with more dirt than any other part of our body, they also come into contact with our mouth and food more than anything else too, which is why effective hand washing with Carex is so important.


Hands Up For Hygiene


Hands Up For Hygiene logo

Our schools programme, helping school kids learn how, when and why they need to wash their hands.

Did you know?

  • "Handwashing is one of the most important ways of preventing the spread of illness"

  • "Regular hand washing can reduce absenteeism amongst school children"

  • "Our hands carry a mixture of both good and bad bacteria"

  • "Most of the bacteria our hands pick up live on fingertips and under our nails"

  • "Washing with water alone doesn't guarantee that bad bacteria are removed"

  • "Good bacteria act as our personal shield against unwanted bacteria"

  • "Many bacteria can survive on surfaces for several months"

  • "The skin has its own natural defences against bad bacteria"


Find out more about good hand hygiene