Debunking the Bacteria

Jeff Vigneron and the rest of the custodial staff have to work exponentially harder every winter.

The common cold spreads most rapidly during the winter months because it thrives in low humidity and because people are more often inside and closer together during these months, huddled around a fire or sharing hot chocolate.

The best way to avoid getting sick is washing hands often and correctly. Hands should be washed almost halfway up to the elbow for approximately one minute with warm water. Nails should be scratched on the opposite palm to clean them, and hands must be dried thoroughly so germs can’t take advantage of the lingering warmth and wetness.

Contrary to popular belief, hand sanitizers are a weak alternative.

Though conveniently located in every classroom in the school and on the desks in the front office, the Purell dispensers are no substitute for good old-fashioned soap and water. In 2005, a group of doctors at the Harvard Medical School, in Boston, MA performed the first clinical trial based on hand sanitizers. The results, surprisingly, showed little to no reduction in the frequency or severity of sickness when individuals regularly used the sanitizer.

Regular hand washing and vaccination is by far the most effective way to prevent sickness.

It’s especially important for those with weak immune systems to get vaccinated. However, others are simply genetically predisposed to being healthy. Sophomore Bailey Pfannenstiel claims to be one of those with a stronger defense.

“It’s because my mom breast fed me,” Pfannenstiel said.

Pfannenstiel, who has gone about two years without being sick, says he doesn’t eat anything special or stay particularly germ-free–he just rarely gets sick.

Sophomore James Wensel shares in Pfannenstiel’s fortune.

“I’ve never really got that sick,” Wensel said. “Maybe like a stomach flu.”

Reservoirs, the areas where germs thrive, must be cleaned often and thoroughly. Common reservoirs are door knobs, desktops, keyboards and drawers handles.

Vigneron, the Buildings and Ground Lead at Free State and head of all janitorial departments, takes special precautions during the winter months.

“We use a chemical called Rejuvenol … an antifungal,” Vigneron said.  “It kills viruses, and bacteria, all of that.”

Every night, throughout the entire year, commonly touched items, including doorknobs, pencil sharpeners and light switches, are cleaned. Vigneron says that the bathrooms are literally sprayed from the top down.

During the fall and spring, the janitorial department uses a general cleaner, but when the custodial staff is transitioning from fall to winter or winter to spring, Rejuvenol is commonly used.

“We start to get really aggressive,” Vigneron said.

Vigneron explains how teachers can help preserve the janitors’ disinfection.

“Probably the worst thing a teacher can do is use Clorox wipes or Lysol wipes because they don’t get along well with our chemicals,” Vigneron said. “They actually make my guys sick, ironically.”

These wipes have a bleach agent in them. While bleach kills some germs, it does nothing for mold or viruses.

Eating right has many health benefits, as well. Besides feeling better and maintaining a healthy metabolism and weight, eating certain foods can help stave off sickness. According to Amanda MacMillan and Tamara Schryver of, yogurt, oats, garlic, fish and tea all help boost the immune system, which in turn helps to combat sickness. School lunch offers various fruits, vegetables and yogurt to help students eat healthier.

Though the janitorial department strives to keep the school clean, and the school-offered lunch includes foods that boost the immune system, staying healthy this winter is up to the individual. Doctors recommend vaccination against influenza every year, and hands should be properly washed several times a day to remove bacteria, fungus, viruses and other microorganisms that can cause sickness.