Good health and hygiene

By Dr. Sushila S. Fonseca

Panaji, August 3, 2019: It is a universal desire to have a healthy and fit body. Simple care in hygiene, nutrition and exercise go a long way to towards achieving this.

Hygiene means the practice of cleanliness and is the first step to prevent infections from viruses, bacteria and parasites that abound in the immediate environment around us. Especially if inculcated in childhood, the regular practice of hygiene becomes a habit, which automatically continues throughout an individual’s lifetime. Hygienic practices not only ensure an individual’s good health but also that of his/her family.

Hygienic practices can be divided into two categories:
1) Care of individual.
2) Care of the environment.

Care of the individual involves simple acts like washing of body parts such as the mouth, hands, the rest of the body, skin and hair. Oral hygiene requires regular brushing of teeth and rinsing of the mouth. This prevents proliferation of disease-causing germs in the mouth, which gives them easy access to the throat, lungs, stomach and intestines. If the person’s immunity or resistance drops, bacteria and viruses can penetrate the linings of these organs and cause disease. Oral hygiene must be practised, especially after waking up in the morning, before breakfast and after dinner, that is before going to bed. Oral hygiene also prevents dental caries and bad breath.

Appropriate washing of hands is an easy and useful practice to maintain good health. Infective organisms like bacteria and viruses, microscopic eggs of worms and one-celled organisms like amoeba proliferate and are abundant in the soil and dust particles which settle on door-handles, counters and any open surface. Therefore, it is important to wash hands with soap and water regularly, especially after visiting the toilet and on returning home after a day out. For the same reason it is important to wash hands before sitting down to a meal. Nowadays, hand sanitizers are also available for the traveller, when water is not easily available.

For the same reason finger nails must be trimmed and kept clean. Fingers must be kept away from the ears, eyes and nasal openings to prevent an introduction of infection there. A Namaste greeting, with folded hands, is ideal to prevent transmission of infection from one person to another.

A daily bath is important to wash off the sweat, grime and dirt from all parts of the body. Secretions of the microscopic skin glands dry on the surface of the skin and tend to block the tiny pores in the skin. The blocked secretion becomes a good medium for bacteria to grow and thus pimples and boils develop. To avoid this, the face must be washed frequently. The hair of the head, too, must be washed; if not daily, at least twice a week. It must be kept neat and clean, or else it becomes a convenient abode for lice.

We should avoid walking bare feet, especially when outdoors, because of the presence of worms as well as other infective organisms in the ground. The life cycles of many worms begin in the soil. From there the microscopic forms, pierce the skin of the foot, travel through the blood vessels and settle in the intestines of human beings where they grow and live as parasites, e.g. round worms. Thus, they can be the cause of indigestion, abdominal pain and even loss of blood and anaemia.

Many bacteria, viruses and parasites are transmitted through food and cause diseases like typhoid and diarrhoea. Therefore, it is important to keep the kitchen clean. All fish and meat must be thoroughly cooked. Fruits and vegetables must be washed in abundant water. Drinking water must be boiled or filtered to remove or kill all germs and only clear and colourless water must be consumed.

All the above practices are the first step to a healthy life. Next we must look to keep the immediate environment in the home and its surroundings clean and compatible with good health. By doing this we prevent the proliferation of vectors like house flies and mosquitos. House flies transmit germs like typhoid bacteria to our food and mosquitoes transmit dengue virus and malaria parasite to the blood stream when they bite human beings.

From all this we see that the regular practice of hygiene is the first step to a healthy life.

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