Teacher’s questions for some dirt won’t hurt



Before reading:

  1. Do you or does anyone you know suffer from allergies? What conditions make them flare up?
  2. Can you list some ways microbes play a role in the foods that we eat?


 During reading:

  1. Why is hand washing important?
  2. Define good hygiene.
  3. Do all bacteria cause disease?
  4. Based on a cell count, are you mostly human or microbe? How about based on weight?
  5. List two ways bacteria benefit human health.
  6. Define allergic reaction.
  7. Why would living in too clean an environment increase the risk of asthma and allergies?
  8. What did Erika von Mutius discover about exposure to farm animals?
  9. What would a high level of immunoglobulin E suggest about a person?
  10. How might microbes train the body’s immune system?
  11. Why can antibiotics and antibacterials be harmful once they enter lakes and streams?
  12. In what sorts of products would you expect to find triclocarban?
  13. What is the best way to wash your skin?

After reading:

  1. What are the symptoms of asthma? Why are asthma rates rising?
  2. In what ways could you increase your exposure to beneficial bacteria?
  3. Is there an appropriate place to use antibacterial soap? Where is it?
  4. Name some problems that can arise from living a germ-free life.
  5. Did reading this article inspire you to change any of your habits? Why or why not?


  1. More than 81 percent of Americans live in urban areas. What steps would you take to expose more urban dwellers to the beneficial bacteria most commonly found in rural areas?


  1. Microbial cells account for 1 percent to 3 percent of a person’s weight. What is your weight? Now calculate how many pounds of that would appear to be due to the microbes living on and in you? Show your calculations.