By Dr Ore Taiwo Makinde
Considering the new normal that has evolved globally, it is not surprising that almost everyone from the least to the greatest and from the youngest to the oldest has made deliberate efforts to improve their hygiene. The health information we have today was foreign in the early 1900s when the Spanish flu broke out killing 50 million of the world’s population.
I have a knack for keeping the toilet clean. Cleaning the toilet and ensuring no pee spills or poop track-marks are left behind is always my stance. I had to correct my nine-year-old son for leaving the toilet unwashed several weeks ago. His explanation for the lapse was that he was taught in school to always close the toilet lid before flushing so he did not see that further cleaning was required.
I quickly dispelled this information until a health publication came to my notice about a week ago reporting how flushing a toilet with an open lid could propel a spray of viral droplets into the air, travelling up to 3 feet from ground level. Wow! Since then I keep the toilet-lid closed while flushing. My perception of toilet hygiene went up by a notch. It is interesting to see how a piece of news or information could positively impact or distort our thoughts and in turn our actions.
However, there is mixed information out there which has created some confusion. This can be cleared by reviewing the following aspects of our hygiene, bearing in mind that hygiene simply means cleaning up oneself and one’s environment.
- Body hygiene: The habit of bathing after returning home after a day’s work is being questioned. In an environment where there is little or no dust, this is probably unnecessary. In cold, wintery weather, less so. If you stayed indoors all day, you could overlook an evening bath. However, for those of us who live in a hot, dusty region and where your job gets you sweaty and sticky, try not to resist the urge to bathe when you return home irrespective of whether you work in a hospital or COVID isolation centre. It will reduce the chances of body odour and skin infections. It also enhances sleep hygiene for those who may have difficulty falling asleep at night.
- Hand hygiene: This entails frequent hand washing with soap and water after touching any object or article that is a potential fomite. Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; before, during and after preparing food, before eating food; before and after caring for a sick person; before and after treating a cut or wound. Wash hands after changing diapers, using the toilet, touching an animal, animal waste, animal feed, pet food or garbage. Soap and running water are the best bet but keep an alcohol-based sanitiser nearby to use as an alternative, especially after handling money. Lather your hands carefully with soap and wash for 20 seconds while singing the happy birthday rhyme to help you keep to time.
- Respiratory hygiene: This is also known as cough etiquette. It is the major key in reducing droplet spread of infections such as the common cold virus, tuberculosis, chickenpox as well as the coronaviruses. Cough etiquette entails covering your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or elbow while coughing or sneezing. Droplets are also conveyed from our lips while speaking or singing however wearing a face mask and keeping a physical distance of 3 feet in public is likely to keep such droplets at bay. Always spit into a tissue or sink and not on the ground.
- Environmental hygiene: This is one area that still leaves a lot to be desired in our country. During the rainy season, it gets worse. During this COVID season and in the hereafter, environmental sanitation should be considered a priority by all tiers of government. Let us endeavour to clear our environment of trash, thick grass, and bushes. Let us keep our drains clean and dry. Please let us also stop throwing trash out of our car windows.
- Sink hygiene: Studies show that sinks harbour the most germs in our houses. Therefore, in addition to ensuring toilet hygiene, wash and sanitize sink drains with a few drops of hypochlorite solution regularly. Endeavour to keep home and office surfaces clean as well.
In conclusion, diverse forms of hygiene are important for our health and safety. Avoid carrying out these actions with fear or paranoia but rather with the understanding that these actions are part of a healthy lifestyle which can help us control the spread of the SAR-CoV-2 infection amongst several others. Improve your hygiene today because contrary to the popular saying, “dirty dey kill African man”.
Dr Ore Taiwo Makinde is a Consultant Family Physician and certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician.
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