Healthcare Workplace Spotlight: the Importance of Personal Hygiene

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For starters, personal hygiene is defined as the various ways in which an individual provides care to his or her body. Personal hygiene is of the utmost importance for everyone in society, but this rings especially true for those who work in the medical field and healthcare industry. In fact, personal hygiene is so important in the healthcare field that it can mean the difference between life and death.

Why is personal hygiene so important? The human body can be an ideal place for many disease-causing microbes and germs to flourish and multiply. These microbes can result in illness for a person who does not practice good personal hygiene habits. In addition, the microbes can make the other people in the life of the unclean person extremely sick due to the fact that germs that cause disease are spread by way of direct contact.

What are some examples of poor personal hygiene habits for healthcare workers and others? Examples include wearing unwashed clothing and uniforms, not showering or bathing regularly, not brushing one’s own teeth twice per day, not routinely washing one’s hands, and failing to cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing. Unclean clothes, bodies, mouths and hands are all able to spread germs and make others ill.

For those who provide direct care to clients and patients, personal hygiene is so crucial that adherence to good cleanliness habits can mean the difference between life and death. For instance, unclean clothing contains dead skin cells and germs. A nurse aide who wears unclean scrubs to her workplace can spread germs to an elderly patient with a compromised immune system. The patient may develop an infection and die.

Certain types of patients and clients are more prone to contracting illness than others. These patients include the elderly, the very young, the unvaccinated, and those with reduced immunity due to acquired immunodeficiency virus (AIDS) or taking medications that suppress the body’s immune response. People with autoimmune diseases and those who have had organ transplantation often take drugs that lower the body’s immunity.

So, what are some examples of good personal hygiene habits that healthcare workers and others should practice? Some examples include taking daily showers or baths, brushing the teeth twice a day, washing the hands after using the toilet and before giving care or handling food items, wearing clothing that has been washed, ensuring one’s hair is clean, and covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Good personal hygiene habits reduce microbial counts on a person’s skin and in the oral cavity, thereby minimizing chances of spreading germs that cause disease. Clean clothing does not harbor the germs that are found on unwashed clothes. Also, covering the mouth during a cough or sneeze keeps airborne and droplet germs from getting into the air, thereby preventing others in the immediate area from breathing them in.

Personal hygiene starts with at the individual level. It is up to the individual to do what he possibly can to protect himself, his family, the community, and the public as a whole. Good personal hygiene habits protect individuals, families, communities and the general public by reducing the number of disease-causing germs on peoples’ bodies. Personal hygiene is a health and safety issue. Remember that.

RESOURCES

Australian Government Department of Health. (November 2010). Good Personal Hygiene. Retrieved March 28, 2019, from http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/ publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-enhealth-manual-atsi-cnt-l~ohp-enhealth-manual-atsi-cnt-l-ch3~ohp-enhealth-manual-atsi-cnt-l-ch3.7

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