We’ve all been sick at some point and in the age of Covid-19, we’ve all come to consider the ways we get sick and how we might better protect ourselves against illness. But can we use fire to help ward off germs, bacteria, and viruses?
Yes, most disease-causing agents (bacteria, viruses, germs, etc.) will be killed by fire. But it must be hot enough for a long enough duration to be effective.
However, that doesn’t mean you should wander your home with a flame thrower, there are safer ways to kill germs, in most cases, than using fire. Here’s what you need to know about germs, fire, and your health.
Your # 1 priority is keeping your family safe. As a firefighter, I recommend everyone has updated smoke detectors that don’t require battery changes, like these ones from Kidde, a fire extinguisher, like this one from Amerex, and a fire escape ladder if you have bedrooms above the first floor, I recommend this one from Hausse.
Table of Contents
- What Are Germs?
- What Is Infection?
- Does Fire Kill Germs?
- Does Cooking Kill Bacteria And Viruses?
- What Temperature Kills Bacteria In Food?
- Does Burning Sage Kill Bacteria?
- What Temperature Kills The Coronavirus (Covid-19)?
- Can You Kill Germs With A Lighter?
What Are Germs?
It might come as a surprise to you if you, like us, grew up hearing people talk about germs all the time but there’s not actually any such thing as a “germ”.
In fact, the term refers to a group of “infectious agents” which may include bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoans, and helminths and it’s important to distinguish each of these individual things because they all behave differently.
And from our perspective, they all react differently in the presence of fire.
We’d also like to note before we dive deeper into this topic area – the vast majority of each of these five groups of infectious agents are totally harmless.
You do not need to live your life in terror of these agents, but if you understand them better, you may be able to avoid getting an infection.
What Are Bacteria?
Bacteria are the oldest forms of life on the planet and possibly in the universe (we’ve not seen the whole universe, yet so we can’t say for certain).
They consist of a single cell, and they can only be observed with a microscope. Right now, there are, quite literally, billions of bacteria on and in your body.
And that’s because most bacteria are not harmful and, in fact, many are helpful.
You have bacteria in your intestines, for example, that aid with the digestion of food and help to ward off other disease-causing bacteria and create nutrients for you with their byproducts!
In fact, most bacteria are technically harmless but the byproducts of disease-causing bacteria tend to be toxic and can cause damage to your tissues.
The best treatments for bacterial diseases are antibiotics.
Also read: Are Farts Flammable? Can They Explode?
What Are Viruses?
A virus doesn’t even have a cell to call home! A virus is simply a string of genetic material, it’s one of the very smallest things in the “biological world” and there is even some debate as to whether viruses are “alive”.
It’s worth noting that not all viruses are harmful and that a huge chunk of human DNA is made from viral DNA that both we and our ancestors picked up over time.
However, some viruses do make us ill and they do so because they invade our cells and use their cellular reproduction equipment to reproduce themselves.
This can cause the host cell to die and other issues in the body.
Viruses cause Covid, AIDS, Ebola, Influenza, and much more.
You cannot treat viruses with antibiotics, they do not affect them at all.
To better understand the difference between bacteria and viruses, watch this:
What Are Fungi?
Anyone who has eaten a tasty plate of mushrooms will know that not all fungi are disease-causing agents. The same is true if you’ve eaten cheese – fungi are used to mature most types of cheeses and give them their flavor.
Another useful fungus is yeast which is used to make beer, bread, and the popular spreads Vegemite and Marmite, however, not all yeasts are our friends.
Candida albicans is a yeast. It’s known more commonly as “thrush” when it infects human beings and can cause irritation to the mouth, throat, and genitalia.
Other fungi that can cause illness in human beings are ringworm (which is not a worm of any kind) and athlete’s foot.
Fungi are also not usually treated with antibiotics, but with antifungals. However, in some cases of extreme fungal infection, an antibiotic may be used to support the antifungal.
What Are Protozoans?
A protozoon is a single-celled organism but unlike bacteria, they tend to behave a bit like animals do and they hunt/gather their own food from other microbes.
As with the other classes of infectious agents, there are plenty of completely harmless protozoans and, in fact, your intestinal tract has plenty of them swimming around merrily at the moment not doing you any harm at all.
However, they can cause diseases such as amoebic dysentery, malaria, toxoplasmosis, and more. They are commonly picked up by eating or drinking contaminated food or water but can be spread by insects such as mosquitoes too.
What Are Helminths?
There’s no easy way to put this. Helminths are worms.
And yes, they can be a huge problem if they get into the wrong parts of your body.
However, you have many helminths living peacefully in your eyebrows right now and they won’t do you any harm either.
But harmful helminths can be very harmful, they include liver flukes, tapeworms, and roundworms and are capable of destroying your internal organs.
What Is Infection?
Infection is the precursor to disease.
In many cases, we can be infected with one of the agents above and it exists in such small quantities that your body handles it without ever becoming sick.
Disease occurs when you get cellular damage from infection and your immune system goes into overdrive in order to protect you. Fevers, coughs, sneezes, etc. are a sign your body is fighting disease.
Does Fire Kill Germs?
Yes. Though given the wide variety of organisms that can be considered “germs”, there’s no definitive temperature that is guaranteed to kill all infectious agents.
However, from a practical perspective fire has been used for sterilizing medical equipment since the dawn of time and it is reasonably effective against most infectious agents.
Does Cooking Kill Bacteria And Viruses?
Yes, in fact, the use of heat is a very effective way to kill bacteria and viruses in food (though we would note that viruses in food, may or may not be contagious – there is a lot of debate as to whether viruses are capable of infecting anyone after leaving a body and attaching to a surface).
However, this is only true if the food is heated thoroughly all the way through and you should measure the core temperature of a dish to be certain it is safe to eat.
What Temperature Kills Bacteria In Food?
The temperature at which the vast majority of bacteria in food will die off is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
To ensure you have reached this temperature, you should insert a thermometer into the center of the thickest part of any foodstuff and take a reading from there.
Also read: How Hot Is A Lighter Flame?
Will Hot Water Kill Bacteria And Viruses?
Hot water at a temperature of above 165 degrees Fahrenheit should kill viruses and bacteria.
And certainly boiling water (212 degrees Fahrenheit) will kill viruses and bacteria.
Take a look here for more detailed info:
How Long Does How Water Take To Kill Bacteria?
It takes about 30 seconds of immersion in hot water to kill any bacteria on the surface of a substance, however, if there are bacteria inside the substance?
You will need to raise the internal temperature to above 165 degrees Fahrenheit throughout to be certain of killing the bacteria, the time to do this varies based on the size of the object to be sterilized.
Does Burning Sage Kill Bacteria?
It’s a peculiar question but the answer seems to be, yes, sort of. Burning sage when the smoke is allowed to permeate a room appears to kill about 94% of bacteria.
Sadly, this is not a good way to sterilize a room. If any of the remaining 6% is a harmful bacteria, it can still make you sick.
Also read: Does Smoke And Fire Repel Mosquitoes?
The Coronavirus appears to die at temperatures of around 158 degrees Fahrenheit.
As with other viruses there remains some debate as to whether Covid-19 is actually contagious on surfaces but for the moment? It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Can You Kill Germs With A Lighter?
Yes, if you use a lighter to sterilize equipment such as eating utensils, it will kill any germs that the flame comes into contact with.