Avoiding Germs: A How-To

cooties-sneeze‘Tis the season to get cooties. I’ve been lucky not to catch anything horrid the last few cough-and-cold seasons, but I did just have a couple days of a bug that’s been touring my area.

Most of us know what to do avoid spreading germs: cough and sneeze into a hankie or our elbow; wash our hands regularly; dress appropriately for the weather; clean commonly touched surfaces with mild disinfectant; get vaccinated.

Where did we learn all of this? Probably a combination of our parents and our schools. And in school, we probably got treated to some wonderful educational films!

That’s right, it’s time to visit the Internet Archive and see what we can learn about avoiding germs.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time with the Prelinger Archives, and learned about maintaining good health in general terms. But there’s more in-depth disease avoidance strategies available, and even other collections to explore. A/V Geeks has some gems as well.

cooties-joanFirst, a classic in this genre from our old pals at Coronet Instructional Films, Joan Avoids a Cold, released in 1947. Like many of the Coronet films, it features a combination of narration and live dialogue and action – though the acting itself if rather stiff and the dialogue more forced than an infomercial. Joan and her brother Jim dress properly for the cold, use tissues to protect their hands from nose cooties, walk around puddles instead of jumping in them, and wash their hands all the time. What good examples of healthy habits!

The bad example would be their buddy George, who didn’t have a good breakfast, jumped in a puddle without boots on, tried to wipe his snot on his hand and sleeve, and ended up in the nurse’s office with a fever. Don’t be a George, guys, be a Joan!

cooties-prevent-diseaseNext, Preventing the Spread of Disease from 1940, released by the National Motion Picture Company. This film details steps that can be taken by individuals, as well as those taken by communities, in order to maintain good health. Keeping cows clean to get us good milk and meat; maintaining proper water sanitation, and using screens and covers to keep away flies. There’s some weirdness here; a few times someone off camera uses a bamboo pole to point at things – like a person’s face – in case the voice over telling you to cover your mouth is unclear.


We are also treated to a segment featuring a girl eating a sandwich with flies stuck on like olives. Then there’s the house with a scarlet fever notice on it – the kids who come up and read it flee for their lives. (I’ve had scarlet fever; I’d run too, kids.)

cooties-soapyGetting more bizarre, we have Soapy the Germ Fighter from Avis Films in 1951. In this one, a large bar of soap in tights and puffed sleeves advises a young Billy Martin (who dresses like a ranch hand) that being friends with him and using soap won’t make him a sissy! Wait, what?

Anyhow, Soapy points out that cowboys wash after they get dirty. It keeps them healthy. And there’s others who are friends to cleanliness – like the Health Officer! He swabs drinking glasses, pats large cuts of meat, and stands on staircases making notes. It’s all very official.

The narrator (never identified) tells us Billy is now one of the cleanest boys in town, and we get to watch him scrub in the bath. So there’s that.

cooties-vd-attackAnd what might be the oddest film I found: VD – Attack Plan, an animated film created and released by Disney in 1973.

Yup, Disney.

Yes, that Disney.

Talking about sexually transmitted diseases. With little animated syphilis and gonorrhea germs that grin evilly at the  thought of invading a human body. And the general is voiced by no less than Keenan Wynn. I don’t really have anything else to say about this one.

cooties-ukOne more, a very short PSA from the UK, produced by The Ministry of Information for the Ministry of Health, created by Public Relationship Films: Coughs and Sneezes. It’s a little over a minute long, and features a man sneezing all over people until the narrator gives him a hankie and a bowl of disinfectant to make him stop sharing his snot.

If you want some more modern guidelines to avoiding germs, the CDC has a very good run-down right here.

Keep warm, keep clean, and if you’re sick, keep your cooties to yourself!

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