All of us are taught about hygienic living and this subject should be included as a chapter in the curriculum of every school. There are many different kinds of hygiene.
Respiratory hygiene: This is important to prevent cross infection, specifically, from flu and related respiratory illness. One should keep a distance of minimum 3 ft, from a person who is coughing, sneezing or singing. Most respiratory particles are more than 5 microns in size and do not travel a distance of more than 3 ft. This respiratory hygiene, however, will not prevent transmission of the tuberculosis bacteria, which are less than 5 microns and keep circulating in the area.
Hand hygiene: This is the fundamental principle for any disease prevention and the catch phrase is “before and after”, i.e. one should wash hands before and after eating food, touching any infected material, seeing a patient or after normal evacuation of stool in the morning.
Food hygiene: This means maintaining hygiene at home while cutting, serving and eating food. While cutting a vegetable, the surface or the cutting board should be clean and hygienic including the knife, hands, water, utensils etc. If that hygiene is not possible, follow the formula of ‘boil it, heat it, peel it, cook it or forget it’. This means that any food which has been boiled, heated or peeled is safe for eating. Peeling means removing the skin of a fruit such as banana or oranges.
Water hygiene: This involves drinking safe water, safe drinking glass, proper washing of glass, not washing multiple glasses in the same utensil and picking up glasses properly. People often try to pick up four glasses of water at the same time with one finger in each glass.
Sexual hygiene: This involves washing local areas before and after sexual contact.
Body hygiene: This involves 16 upchars, as mentioned in mythology. Out of these 16 basic steps, some are related to body hygiene and they involve washing feet first and then hands followed by mouth and finally the body. Washing of the feet is the most important as they are the ones which carry infections into one’s house.
Cleaning of mouth is cleaning the teeth with one finger, gums with two fingers, tongue with three fingers and palate with thumb.
Abhishekam or the snana of the body involves multiple steps. Ancient steps have been washing the body with milk water (rose water etc.) followed by rubbing with curd (soap), honey (moisturizers), ghee (oil), sugar (the drying agent) and finally with milk water again. This facilitates natural bathing and not dependent on soap.
Nail hygiene: This is also a very important hygiene, especially for food handlers, because they are responsible for causation of water and food disease. It is important that they be given typhoid vaccines and de-worming tablets every three months.
Another important hygiene to be observed at our homes is that of the servants or the help. They are often provided soap at the start of the month and they are supposed to use that bar of soap for a month. If by any chance, they lose that soap in 2-3 weeks’ time, they are apprehensive in asking the owners for soap. As a result, they may wash their hands without soap for the next 2-3 weeks, which includes washing of hands in morning.