We are all scared of getting infected by lethal diseases like cancer, AIDS, TB, etc., but how many of us worry about taking basic measures in our daily routine to prevent diseases caused by the lack of simple everyday hygienic steps? How many of us bother to make sure the water which we are drinking has been taken in a glass which is adequately clean or that the toothbrush used to clean our teeth hasn’t been stocked too close to the WC? It is human tendency of overlooking simpler things in an effort to prevent bigger problems. But it must be remembered that this basic hygiene goes much longer in having a healthy and morbidity-free life than others.
Hygiene of Skin
The skin is underestimated as regards to its protective value and given importance for only its cosmetic value which is a blunder. It is the largest organ of the body and the body’s first defense against all infections and trauma. Skin should be healthy and pink as this is the first sign of good health.
Bathing twice daily with clean water and soap is a must. A thorough cleansing of all parts especially where one sweat’s profusely is essential. This is very much true as these are the parts most likely to pick up a fungal infection due to sweat accumulation. After washing, use a slightly rough towel, the skin must be dried thoroughly with gentle rubbing action so that dead cells are exfoliated. Also drying well is essential to prevent fungal infections in folds of skin, between fingers, toes. Scabies is a mite infection which tends to infest entire families and daily hygiene is the only way to prevent it from spreading. One must wash the feet every time one returns from venturing out especially in monsoons.
Hygiene of Hair
Hair must be washed with soap or shampoo at least twice a week. It must be wall lathered and then adequately rinsed. Also long hair tends to get dirty faster, short hair is advisable. Hair is the house of lice if not kept clean and lice causes itching in hair. It is a nuisance as they tend to jump from the infected person’s head to those around and infect entire families. Hair must be oiled at least 2-4 times a month to replenish the natural oils lost during washing and exposure to sun and heat. Also, this prevents hair from drying and losing texture, retaining a healthy lustrous sheen.
Beard and moustache in men should be trimmed short. One must shave at least once-twice a week. An unkempt beard/moustache looks dirty and is liable to infection by lice.
Hygiene of Nails
Nails must always be trimmed and short. The area under the nails should be kept clean and free of dirt. Nails provide a very suitable harbor for germs, parasites etc to breed and grow if not cleaned on a daily basis. One must never scratch areas with nails as it tends to spread the infection (if any, esp. anal and genital areas) and denudes the area of vital layers of skin if scratched too vigorously. Thus a soft napkin must be used to gently rub an itchy area or a soothing lotion or cream applied to relieve the itch.
Oral and Dental Hygiene
Twice daily brushing with toothpaste and toothbrush is essential to maintain a decay-free set of dentine. Food stuck around teeth tends to decay due to ever-present bacterial flora in our mouth. Soon it starts eroding the tooth enamel and then the tooth itself. Gargling after every meal is equally essential to rid the mouth of stuck food particles, particular after a sweet meal. Dental flossing at least once daily to remove particles stuck between teeth is very important as those are places inaccessible by toothbrushes or mouthwashes.
Hygiene of Food and Water
Drinking water forms a major chunk of our daily input and is an important source of calcium as well as minerals. It should be free from any colour, odour, taste, suspended particles, etc. If unclean, it is a major source of infections like typhoid, paratyphoid, cholera, amoebiasis, various helminthic infestations, to enter our body. Thus it is extremely essential that if the source of drinking water is unclean, situated at a place which is dirty, near a public dustbin, etc. it be changed immediately. Water should be rolling boiled for 20 minutes to free it from bacteria, their eggs, and viruses. It should be cooled in a wide-mouthed vessel while being covered, and stored in clean bottles or utensils which should also be kept covered at all times.
Food should always be kept covered, whether cooked or raw. Flies carry infections like those mentioned above and when they sit on uncovered food, they transmit the bacteria to the food. Such food when consumed can cause diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis, etc. Raw fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly with clean water before consumption. Fruits and vegetables that can be peeled should be peeled before consumption. Cooked/raw food must be refrigerated if not consumed within few hours. This prevents growth of bacteria and increases shelf life. Milk should be boiled and cooled and stored in a clean and cool environment. It should be stored in a clean vessel which must be kept covered at all times. Meats must always be kept refrigerated and never left open to environment.
By taking these simple measures, not only can multiple minor ailments be prevented, but many major ailments are detected early and treated in time. Thus, extra few minutes given daily, by paying little attention to detail, can prevent days of ill health and mental stress later. One must remember that good health is the greatest tool and every step possible to achieve should be welcomed and made part of daily healthcare regimen. These are the most basic steps for adequate daily hygiene. Any more can be voluntarily added in one’s regimen based on individual and family needs, demands of locality and region, weather, etc.
– Dr. Rachita Narsaria