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Washington Post Kids: Ever wondered if there’s good bacteria?

As a pediatrician, I spend a lot of time looking for bacteria that might be making my patients sick. Some well-known illnesses that are caused by bacteria include strep throat, ear infections, Lyme disease and conjunctivitis (pinkeye). Bacteria are also responsible for acne, cavities and body odor.

Bacteria can hurt you in two ways. Some attack cells directly. Others produce toxins (poisons) that make you sick. Either way, bacteria can rapidly damage or destroy cells.

While it’s true that some bacteria can make you sick, most species of bacteria are helpful. Bacteria can be found everywhere. They live in water, in the air and on land. Bacteria are among the smallest life forms on the planet. If you lined up 10,000 staph bacteria, they would fit on the head of a pin. (The same pin could hold 1 million cold viruses.)

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