Best Personal Hygiene Practices
Since the mid 1800s, we've had an understanding of the role that germs play in our health and our lives. It was French chemist Louis Pasteur who developed modern germ theory and theorized that bacteria causes infection and disease. Now, almost 200 years later we have a more sophisticated understanding of how to protect our health and prevent illness using a wide array of hygiene practices.
Using these simple hygiene best practices can help prevent disease and improve overall health.
Hygiene Fast Facts
- The World Bank asserts that hygiene promotion is the most cost-effective health action to reduce disease globally.
- Researchers have estimated that 1 million deaths per year could be prevented if everyone routinely washed their hands.
- Respiratory illnesses like colds could be reduced by 16-21% in the general population with regular hand washing.
- A significant portion of food-borne illness is spread by contaminated hands in the handling and preparation of food and can be mitigated by regular handwashing and basic personal hygiene measures.
Keeping Hands Clean
Washing your hands is one of the most impactful hygiene practices in keeping you and your loved ones healthy. Germs spread from person to person or surfaces to people primarily through contact with the eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
How to Wash Your Hands the Right Way
- Wet your hands under clean, warm running water, turn off the tap, and apply a quarter-sized amount of soap.
- Lather the soap by rubbing it between your hands. It is important to get both sides of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands with a clean, dry towel.
When you are in a situation where you should however cannot wash your hands, using hand sanitizer is a convenient alternative when you're in a pinch. It must be a sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (this can be determined by looking at the label on the bottle). Washing hands is the best method between the two, as sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs and their efficacy can be impaired depending on if the hands are visibly dirty, greasy, or have harmful chemicals present on them.1
Hand hygiene includes keeping the fingernails properly trimmed and clean, as the space under fingernails can harbor dirt and bacteria and, in turn, make you sick. Fingernails should be kept short and the undersides dry and frequently cleaned with soap and water.
Before clipping or grooming nails, it is also important that all tools used are properly cleaned, especially if there is a risk of breaking the skin. Sterilizing equipment in cases where it is often shared, such as in a commercial nail salon, is also crucial.
Finally, avoid biting or chewing nails and ripping or biting hangnails, and do not cut cuticles as they provide barriers to infection. Should there be a concern needing to be addressed, approach it with the proper equipment to reduce the risk of infection.2
Coughing and Sneezing Hygiene
Coughing and sneezing project bacteria into your environment and often onto one's hands. Covering these coughs and sneezes can help prevent the spread of serious respiratory illnesses. To help protect yourself and those around you from these germs:3
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Discard used tissues in the trash.
- If you do not have a tissue on hand, cough into your elbow rather than your hands or openly into your environment.
- Properly wash your hands following a cough or sneeze.
Menstruation, or your "period", is a normal biological process experienced by millions each month. During your period, the uterus sheds blood and tissue from its lining and leaves the body through the vagina. Good menstrual hygiene practices help to prevent infection, unpleasant odors, and keep you comfortable while you're on your period.
There are a wide variety of menstrual products available to absorb or collect the blood caused by your period, some include pads, tampons, and menstrual cups and disks. Here are some tips to keep in mind in addition to the instructions provided by your chosen product:
- Wash your hands before and after using a menstrual product.
- Discard contaminated or waste material properly. Wrap them in toilet paper and dispose of them in a trash receptacle, not the toilet as these products can cause clogging issues.
- Sanitary pads: When using sanitary pads, change them every few hours regardless if they are at capacity. Change them more frequently if your period is particularly heavy.
- Tampons: Change tampons every 4-8 hours, prolonged periods of using a single tampon increase the risk of TSS (toxic shock syndrome) and other infections. Use the lowest absorbency tampon necessary- so if you can go longer than 8 hours with a single tampon, the absorbancy might be too high.
- Menstrual cups: Clean cups every day after use. Sanitize them by rinsing them off after use and placing them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes.
Other hygiene considerations during your period include wearing light, breathable clothing (ex cotton underwear), as tight clothing can trap moisture and heat, encouraging bacterial growth and infection; use unscented toilet paper, tampons, and pads, as scented products can irritate the skin and influence your natural pH balance; and drink enough fluids in order to help wash out your urinary tract and prevent infections.4
Your Personal Hygiene
Practicing basic personal hygiene is the most effective means within our control to reduce and prevent illness in ourselves and loved ones. For 200 years, we have tailored our knowledge in how to keep germs and unnecessary illnesses at bay. The most impactful practice in our toolbox is in properly washing our hands, routinely as well as before touching our eyes, nose, and mouth, after coughing or sneezing, before preparing food, and before and after handling menstrual products. Taking these precautions are necessary steps toward a healthier world for ourselves and our loved ones around us.
For more information on making healthy choices, checkout these common sense health tips.
Jay Todtenbier is an original founder of SupplementRelief.com in 2010 and has operated the business ever since. He is also a tennis instructor and gospel musician. Formerly he spent 25 years in business development, technology and marketing with startups and major corporations having gone through the tech boom in Silicon Valley in the 90s. He became passionate about, and began studying and practicing Wellness as a Lifestyle after experiencing chronic, personal health challenges including depression, auto-immune disorders, and being overweight that impacted his ability to live a healthy, vibrant life. Since then, he has been an advocate for healthier living encouraging others to live better through making small, gradual changes to lifestyle behaviors relating to whole-foods nutrition, stress management, reasonable exercise, proper sleep, and the use of targeted, high-quality supplements.
Learn more about Jay Todtenbier.
We encourage you to take advantage of these FREE Wellness Resources on our website.
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The information, knowledge, and experience shared on this website is the opinion of SupplementRelief.com. This site and its content is intended to enhance your knowledge base as YOU MAKE YOUR OWN HEALTHCARE DECISIONS in partnership with your qualified health professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products referred to are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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