By Hariprasad V.R.
Personal hygiene is the key to maintaining overall well-being. In an environment fraught with pollution and unhygienic public spaces, it is imperative to safeguard our health by immunising ourselves from diseases and infections. WHO estimates that there are over 1.4 million cases of infection that have been caused due to lack of hygiene.
As most contagious diseases spread though unhygienic habits, hand hygiene, in particular, is important. WHO has been urging people to wash their hands frequently using soap and water or a hand sanitiser — the first step to keeping themselves free from germs and viruses.
Here are six ways to ensure better hand hygiene:
1. Wash hands regularly: Washing your hands at regular intervals is the most effective way of staying healthy and protecting yourself from various ailments. Scrub hands for at least 30 seconds with soap. Don’t forget the spaces between the fingers and nails. Turn the tap off using your elbows or a towel.
2. Use automatic soap dispensers: These help in reducing the spread of germs and bacteria. Dispensers are perfect for use in bathrooms, kitchens, offices, schools, hospitals, hotels and restaurants. The dispenser protects the liquid from being contaminated and helps scale down the spread of infection in an environment.
3. Carry a hand sanitiser: In addition to soap, it is advisable to also use a good antimicrobial hand sanitiser, with ingredients like hrivera, lemon, ushira and neem. Hrivera, a strong aromatic herb, has antibacterial, deodorising and cooling properties; lemon helps protect the skin from oxidative damage and itching; ushira is an astringent which also helps remove excess heat; while neem has antimicrobial properties.
4. Dry your hands properly: Research shows that bacteria tend to spread faster through wet hands as compared to dry hands. Therefore, dry your hands properly after washing. Ensure that you wipe your fingers and nails properly before continuing your work. Wet hands are a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.
5. Keep your nails trimmed: Ensure your fingernails are trimmed and cleaned regularly — proper nail hygiene can control the spread of diseases. Trim nails after taking a shower as they tend to be soft and are easier to trim. Avoid artificial nails for long durations as it can lead to infection and contaminated nails afterwards.
6. Don’t sneeze into your hands: To ensure germ-free surroundings, always sneeze into a kerchief or a tissue. If neither is available use the crook of your elbow. Every time you sneeze into your hands, you spread germs to the people around you. A single sneeze produces more than 40,000 droplets of moisture and millions of germs; propelled over a distance of 32 feet.
Adopt these simple habits for good hand hygiene and you will be able to stay away from all diseases caused by germs.
(Dr Hariprasad V.R. is a Research Scientist at The Himalaya Drug Company.)