Washing your hands regularly is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from infections, but keeping the rest of your body clean and taking care with your personal hygiene routine helps to keep you healthy too.
What You Need to Know
Some bacterial and fungal infections of the skin, urinary tract infections and eye infections are associated with poor personal hygiene. The germs that cause these infections can be picked up from contact with other people, from contact with surfaces that an infected person has contaminated, or by transferring germs from one part of your body to another. Good personal hygiene not only helps to protect you from these infections, it also helps to prevent other health problems such as body odour, dental decay and bad breath.
Your Personal Hygiene Routine
Encouraging all of your family to adopt a good personal hygiene routine can help to protect them from illness-causing germs that cause infections and other health problems. These are the simple things that everyone should remember:
- One of the most important personal hygiene rules is to avoid sharing personal care items, such as toothbrushes, razors and cosmetics. These items can spread infections from one person to another.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. This will also help stop the germs that cause colds, flus and other respiratory infections from spreading.
- Showering or bathing using an antimicrobial product will help remove the germs that cause body odour and infections.
- After washing, dry your skin thoroughly with a clean towel. Fungal germs thrive on damp skin – especially in folds of skin and between toes.
- Change your underclothes and socks/tights every day and launder these items and the rest of your family’s clothes regularly. The germs that cause unpleasant body odour soon build up in clothing.
- Brush your teeth twice a day, including just before you go to bed, to help remove the bacteria that can lead to dental decay and bad breath.
- Keep your nails short and clean. This will help to prevent dirt and germs remaining beneath your nails after washing your hands.
- When toileting or cleaning a baby’s bottom, to avoid introducing faecal germs from their bottom into their urinary tract, always wipe from front to back.
- To help prevent germs growing on items such as toothbrushes and razors, rinse them with clean, safe water after use and store them somewhere clean and dry (well away from the toilet where germs could splash on them).
- It is best to have your own washcloth and towels too. These should be laundered regularly on a hot wash (at least 60ºC) or if you prefer to wash them at a lower temperature use a suitable laundry disinfectant.
Shaving Hygiene Practices
Folliculitis is a common infection of the hair follicles of the skin. It is often the result of a poor shaving technique that damages the skin, and a lack of razor hygiene. It is important to shave in the direction of hair growth using a clean razor. Rinse your razor in clean, safe water after use and store it somewhere clean and dry. Using worn or damaged blades increases the risk of nicks and abrasions, so it is sensible to replace the blades regularly.
Avoiding Body Odour
Fresh perspiration or sweat is generally odourless. However, when the bacteria on your skin start to break your sweat down into acids, this causes the extremely unpleasant smell known as body odour. To avoid body odour, it is important to shower or bathe every day, paying particular attention to your armpits and groin. Using an antimicrobial product helps to eliminate the germs that cause body odour. Applying a deodorant or antiperspirant after washing, and wearing clothes that allow sweat to evaporate quickly, can also help to prevent body odour. However, you also need to change and launder your clothing regularly to prevent bacteria and odours building up in them.
Treating Dandruff and Spots
Dandruff is a common problem that occurs when the skin cells of the scalp excessively die and produce white flakes, and is often associated with a fungal germ. The best dandruff treatment is to use an anti-dandruff or anti-fungal shampoo, as these contain active ingredients to fight against the condition.
The skin contains many tiny oil glands (sebaceous glands), which are more plentiful around the fine hairs and hair follicles on the face. If these glands become infected and inflamed, acne (spots and pimples) can develop. Washing twice daily with a mild cleansing agent should help keep oils under control. Rinse with warm, not hot, water and pat dry with a clean towel. Avoid scrubbing the face as this can irritate the skin and spread bacteria around which can settle in the deeper layers exposed by the irritation.