Hygiene comes first

Hygiene comes first

Hygiene comes first
Good hygiene is the first step towards preventing, and combating illnesses in a world filled with germs. Once you become a parent, protecting your children against germs and illnesses takes on a whole new meaning. The world is full of germs and the news is full of stories about infectious diseases. The incidences of illness relating to areas of personal hygiene is more widespread in children as they get exposed to many germs whilst in the school environment or in a play area.

There are a multitude of dangerous germs and bacteria lurking everywhere you look. Some are obvious, others less so. Instilling good personal hygiene in children is the best way to avoid the spread of infections and disorders. From bathing to hand washing, setting up a routine of healthy hygiene when your kids are young can create habits that last throughout their lives.

Problem with infections
In the past 20 years, infectious disease has moved steadily back up on the health agenda, prompting new emphasis on developing strategies for prevention and control. According to the UNICEF, hand washing with soap, particularly after contact with excreta, can reduce diarrhoeal diseases by over 40% and respiratory infections by 30%. Hand washing by birth attendants before delivery has been shown to reduce mortality rates by 19%, while a 4% reduction in risk of death was found if mothers washed their hands prior to handling their newborns. Since children are more susceptible to illnesses, and often tend to get afflicted by ailments, it is important to for us to be a bit more cautious.

n Weak immune system: While researching common ailments for children, it was found that one of the major recurring factors for the illnesses was the children’s immunity. Their increased susceptibility to illnesses is essentially due to the fact that their immune system is underdeveloped. It means that the child’s body has not yet been able to build up a defence mechanism to fend off germs, and infections, thus, making him or her more vulnerable to the environmental threats and hazards.

n Modern environmental hazards:
Escalating environmental pollution is another major cause for the growing number of diseases affecting children today, as they are continuously exposed to unhealthy toxins on a daily basis.

n Stronger and more resistant germs: Over a period of time, germs have evolved, and have become more resistant. New viruses and disease breakouts are being heard of on a daily basis — a phenomenon unheard of till some years ago. Children, who are in a dynamic state of growth, and are still developing their immune system, may not be able to fight such infections as their immune cells cannot recognise and react appropriately to such new and stronger germs.

n Climate change: Recent climate changes, especially global warming, have resulted in the spread of infectious diseases worldwide. Researches indicate that certain illnesses such as dengue, malaria etc thrive more in warmer temperatures. These ailments don’t just pose a threat to children, but to adults as well.

n Sticking to traditional hygiene routine: It’s become evident that the traditional hygiene routine is not enough in today’s germier world. There is a growing need for an all-inclusive hygiene routine that includes basic hygiene habits like hand washing and taking a bath with antibacterial soaps, among others.

n More exposure to unhygienic surfaces: Living in a germ-free bubble is simply impossible, especially for children. Children being themselves, tend to play around in mud and grime, and often exchange objects with other children, who may not be as hygienic. They come in contact with several commonly touched, unhygienic surfaces like bus door handles, footballs, staircase railings etc and are also exposed to infections transmitted from other children.

(The author is consultant, emergency medicine, Vikram Hospital, Bengaluru)