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Hygiene is a set of practices performed for the preservation of health. While in modern medical sciences there is a set of standards of hygiene recommended for different situations, what is considered hygienic or not can vary between different cultures, genders and etarian groups. Some regular hygienic practices may be considered good habits by a society while the neglect of hygiene can be considered disgusting, disrespectful or even threatening.
First attested in English in 1677s, the word hygiene comes from the French hygiène, the latinisation of the Greek ὑγιεινή (τέχνη) - hugieinē technē, meaning "(art) of health", from ὑγιεινός (hugieinos), "good for the health, healthy", in turn from ὑγιής (hugiēs), "healthful, sound, salutary, wholesome". In ancient Greek religion, Hygeia (Ὑγίεια) was the personification of health.
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Hygiene is an old concept related to medicine, as well as to personal and professional care practices related to most aspects of living. In medicine and in home (domestic) and everyday life settings, hygiene practices are employed as preventative measures to reduce the incidence and spreading of disease. In the manufacture of food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and other products, good hygiene is a key part of quality assurance i.e. ensuring that the product complies with microbial specifications appropriate to its use. The terms cleanliness (or cleaning) and hygiene are often used interchangeably, which can cause confusion. In general, hygiene mostly means practices that prevent spread of disease-causing organisms. Since cleaning processes (e.g., hand washing) remove infectious microbes as well as dirt and soil, they are often the means to achieve hygiene. Other uses of the term appear in phrases including: body hygiene, personal hygiene, sleep hygiene, mental hygiene, dental hygiene, and occupational hygiene, used in connection with public health. Hygiene is also the name of a branch of science that deals with the promotion and preservation of health, also called hygienic. Hygiene practices vary widely, and what is considered acceptable in one culture might not be acceptable in another.
Medical hygiene pertains to the hygiene practices related to the administration of medicine, and medical care, that prevents or minimizes disease and the spreading of disease.
Medical hygiene practices include:
Most of these practices were developed in the 19th century and were well established by the mid-20th century. Some procedures (such as disposal of medical waste) were tightened up as a result of late-20th century disease outbreaks, notably AIDS and Ebola.
Home hygiene pertains to the hygiene practices that prevent or minimize disease and the spreading of disease in home (domestic) and in everyday life settings such as social settings, public transport, the work place, public places etc.
Hygiene in home and everyday life settings plays an important part in preventing spread of infectious diseases. It includes procedures used in a variety of domestic situations such as hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, food and water hygiene, general home hygiene(hygiene of environmental sites and surfaces), care of domestic animals, and home healthcare (the care of those who are at greater risk of infection).
At present, these components of hygiene tend to be regarded as separate issues, although all are based on the same underlying microbiological principles. Preventing the spread of infectious diseases means breaking the chain of infection transmission. The simple principle is that, if the chain of infection is broken, infection cannot spread. In response to the need for effective codes of hygiene in home and everyday life settings the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene has developed a risk-based approach (based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), which has come to be known as "targeted hygiene". Targeted hygiene is based on identifying the routes of spread of pathogens in the home, and applying hygiene procedures at critical points at appropriate times to break the chain of infection.
The main sources of infection in the home are people (who are carriers or are infected), foods (particularly raw foods) and water, and domestic animals (in western countries more than 50% of homes have one or more pets). Additionally, sites that accumulate stagnant water—such as sinks, toilets, waste pipes, cleaning tools, face cloths—readily support microbial growth, and can become secondary reservoirs of infection, though species are mostly those that threaten "at risk" groups. Germs (potentially infectious bacteria, viruses etc.) are constantly shed from these sources via mucous, faeces, vomit, skin scales, etc. Thus, when circumstances combine, people become exposed, either directly or via food or water, and can develop an infection. The main "highways" for spread of germs in the home are the hands, hand and food contact surfaces, and cleaning cloths and utensils. Germs can also spread via clothing and household linens such as towels. Utilities such as toilets and wash basins, for example, were invented for dealing safely with human waste, but still have risks associated with them, which may become critical at certain times, e.g., when someone has sickness or diarrhea. Safe disposal of human waste is a fundamental need; poor sanitation is a primary cause of diarrheal disease in low income communities. Respiratory viruses and fungal spores are also spread via the air.
Good home hygiene means targeting hygiene procedures at critical points, at appropriate times, to break the chain of infection i.e. to eliminate germs before they can spread further. Because the "infectious dose" for some pathogens can be very small (10-100 viable units, or even less for some viruses), and infection can result from direct transfer from surfaces via hands or food to the mouth, nasal mucosa or the eye, 'hygienic cleaning' procedures should be sufficient to eliminate pathogens from critical surfaces. Hygienic cleaning can be done by:
Hand hygiene is central to preventing spread of infectious diseases in home and everyday life settings.
In situations where hand washing with soap is not an option (e.g. when in a public place with no access to wash facilities), a waterless hand sanitizer such as an alcohol hand gel can be used. They can also be used in addition to hand washing, to minimize risks when caring for "at risk" groups. To be effective, alcohol hand gels should contain not less than 60%v/v alcohol. Hand sanitizers are not an option in most developing countries; in situations where availability of water is a problem, there are appropriate solutions such as tippy-taps, which use much less water and are cheap to make. In low income communities, mud or ash is sometimes used as an alternative to soap.
Household water treatment and safe storage ensure drinking water is safe for consumption. Drinking water quality remains a significant problem, not only in developing countries but also in developed countries; even in the European region it is estimated that 120 million people do not have access to safe drinking water. Point-of-use water quality interventions can reduce diarrheal disease in communities where water quality is poor, or in emergency situations where there is a breakdown in water supply. Since water can become contaminated during storage at home (e.g. by contact with contaminated hands or using dirty storage vessels), safe storage of water in the home is also important.
Routine cleaning of "contact" (hand, food and drinking water) sites and surfaces (such as toilet seats and flush handles, door and tap handles, work surfaces, bath and basin surfaces) in the kitchen, bathroom and toilet reduces the risk of spread of germs. The infection risk from the toilet itself is not high, provided it is properly maintained, although some splashing and aerosol formation can occur during flushing, particularly where someone in the family has diarrhea. Germs can survive in the scum or scale left behind on baths and wash basins after washing and bathing.
Water left stagnant in the pipes of showers can be contaminated with germs that become airborne when the shower is turned on. If a shower has not been used for some time, it should be left to run at a hot temperature for a few minutes before use.
Thorough cleaning is important in preventing the spread of fungal infections. Molds can live on wall and floor tiles and on shower curtains. Mold can be responsible for infections, cause allergic responses, deteriorate/damage surfaces and cause unpleasant odors. Primary sites of fungal growth are inanimate surfaces, including carpets and soft furnishings. Air-borne fungi are usually associated with damp conditions, poor ventilation or closed air systems.
Cleaning of toilets and hand wash facilities is important to prevent odors and make them socially acceptable. Social acceptability is an important part of encouraging people to use toilets and wash their hands.
Laundry hygiene pertains to the practices that prevent or minimize disease and the spreading of disease via soiled clothing and household linens such as towels. Items most likely to be contaminated with pathogens are those that come into direct contact with the body, e.g., underwear, personal towels, facecloths, nappies. Micro-organisms can also be transferred between contaminated and uncontaminated items of clothing and linen during laundering. Of concern are the new "community" strains of MRSA. Experience in the USA suggests that these strains are transmissible within families, but also in community settings such as prisons, schools and sport teams. Skin-to-skin contact (including unabraded skin) and indirect contact with contaminated objects such as towels, sheets and sports equipment seem to represent the mode of transmission.
Two processes are considered suitable for hygienic cleaning of clothing and linen:
Washing at temperatures of 40 °C (104 °F) or below with a non-bleach product is considered to carry a risk of inadequate decontamination.
Medical hygiene pertains to the hygiene practices that prevents or minimizes disease and the spreading of disease in relation to administering medical care to those who are infected or who are more "at risk" of infection in the home. Across the world, governments are increasingly under pressure to fund the level of healthcare that people expect. Care of increasing numbers of patients in the community, including at home is one answer, but can be fatally undermined by inadequate infection control in the home. Increasingly, all of these "at-risk" groups are cared for at home by a carer who may be a household member who thus requires a good knowledge of hygiene. People with reduced immunity to infection, who are looked after at home, make up an increasing proportion of the population (currently up to 20%). The largest proportion are the elderly who have co-morbidities, which reduce their immunity to infection. It also includes the very young, patients discharged from hospital, taking immuno-suppressive drugs or using invasive systems, etc. For patients discharged from hospital, or being treated at home special "medical hygiene" (see above) procedures may need to be performed for them e.g. catheter or dressing replacement, which puts them at higher risk of infection.
Antiseptics may be applied to cuts, wounds abrasions of the skin to prevent the entry of harmful bacteria that can cause sepsis. Day-to-day hygiene practices, other than special medical hygiene procedures are no different for those at increased risk of infection than for other family members. The difference is that, if hygiene practices are not correctly carried out, the risk of infection is much greater.
In the developing world, for decades, universal access to water and sanitation has been seen as the essential step in reducing the preventable ID burden, but it is now clear that this is best achieved by programs that integrate hygiene promotion with improvements in water quality and availability, and sanitation. About 2 million people die every year due to diarrheal diseases, most of them are children less than 5 years of age. The most affected are the populations in developing countries, living in extreme conditions of poverty, normally peri-urban dwellers or rural inhabitants. Providing access to sufficient quantities of safe water, the provision of facilities for a sanitary disposal of excreta, and introducing sound hygiene behaviors are of capital importance to reduce the burden of disease caused by these risk factors.
Research shows that, if widely practiced, hand washing with soap could reduce diarrhea by almost fifty percent and respiratory infections by nearly twenty-five percent Hand washing with soap also reduces the incidence of skin diseases, eye infections like trachoma and intestinal worms, especially ascariasis and trichuriasis.
Other hygiene practices, such as safe disposal of waste, surface hygiene, and care of domestic animals, are also important in low income communities to break the chain of infection transmission.
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Chemical disinfectants are products that kill germs (harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi). If the product is a disinfectant, the label on the product should say "disinfectant" and/or "kills" germs or bacteria etc. Some commercial products, e.g. bleaches, even though they are technically disinfectants, say that they "kill germs", but are not actually labelled as "disinfectants". Not all disinfectants kill all types of germs. All disinfectants kill bacteria (called bactericidal). Some also kill fungi (fungicidal), bacterial spores (sporicidal) and/or viruses (virucidal).
An antibacterial product is a product that acts against bacteria in some unspecified way. Some products labelled "antibacterial" kill bacteria while others may contain a concentration of active ingredient that only prevent them multiplying. It is, therefore, important to check whether the product label states that it "kills" bacteria." An antibacterial is not necessarily anti-fungal or anti-viral unless this is stated on the label.
The term sanitizer has been used to define substances that both clean and disinfect. More recently this term has been applied to alcohol-based products that disinfect the hands (alcohol hand sanitizers). Alcohol hand sanitizers however are not considered to be effective on soiled hands.
The term biocide is a broad term for a substance that kills, inactivates or otherwise controls living organisms. It includes antiseptics and disinfectants, which combat micro-organisms, and also includes pesticides.
Personal hygiene involves those practices performed by an individual to care for one's bodily health and well being, through cleanliness. Motivations for personal hygiene practice include reduction of personal illness, healing from personal illness, optimal health and sense of well being, social acceptance and prevention of spread of illness to others. What is considered proper personal hygiene can be cultural-specific and may change over time. In some cultures removal of body hair is considered proper hygiene. Other practices which are generally considered proper hygiene include bathing regularly, washing hands regularly and especially before handling food, washing scalp hair, keeping hair short or removing hair, wearing underwear, wearing clean clothing, brushing one's teeth, cutting finger nails, besides other practices. Some practices are gender-specific, such as by a woman during her menstrual cycle. People tend to develop a routine for attending to their personal hygiene needs. Other personal hygienic practices would include covering one's mouth when coughing, disposal of soiled tissues appropriately, making sure toilets are clean, and making sure food handling areas are clean, besides other practices. Some cultures do not kiss or shake hands to reduce transmission of bacteria by contact.
Personal grooming extends personal hygiene as it pertains to the maintenance of a good personal and public appearance, which need not necessarily be hygienic. It may involve, for example, using deodorants or perfume, shaving, or combing, besides other practices.
The benefits of body hygiene can be diminished by the risks of excessive body hygiene, which is hypothesized to cause allergic disease and bodily irritation.
The hygiene hypothesis was first formulated in 1989 by Strachan who observed that there was an inverse relationship between family size and development of atopic allergic disorders – the more children in a family, the less likely they were to develop these allergies. From this, he hypothesised that lack of exposure to "infections" in early childhood transmitted by contact with older siblings could be a cause of the rapid rise in atopic disorders over the last thirty to forty years. Strachan further proposed that the reason why this exposure no longer occurs is, not only because of the trend towards smaller families, but also "improved household amenities and higher standards of personal cleanliness".
Although there is substantial evidence that some microbial exposures in early childhood can in some way protect against allergies, there is no evidence that we need exposure to harmful microbes (infection) or that we need to suffer a clinical infection. Nor is there evidence that hygiene measures such as hand washing, food hygiene etc. are linked to increased susceptibility to atopic disease. If this is the case, there is no conflict between the goals of preventing infection and minimising allergies. A consensus is now developing among experts that the answer lies in more fundamental changes in lifestyle etc. that have led to decreased exposure to certain microbial or other species, such as helminths, that are important for development of immuno-regulatory mechanisms. There is still much uncertainty as to which lifestyle factors are involved.
Although media coverage of the hygiene hypothesis has declined, a strong ‘collective mindset’ has become established that dirt is ‘healthy’ and hygiene somehow ‘unnatural’. This has caused concern among health professionals that everyday life hygiene behaviours, which are the foundation of public health, are being undermined. In response to the need for effective hygiene in home and everyday life settings, the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene has developed a "risk-based" or targeted approach to home hygiene that seeks to ensure that hygiene measures are focussed on the places, and at the times most critical for infection transmission. Whilst targeted hygiene was originally developed as an effective approach to hygiene practice, it also seeks, as far as possible, to sustain "normal" levels of exposure to the microbial flora of our environment to the extent that is important to build a balanced immune system.
Excessive body hygiene of the ear canals can result in infection or irritation. The ear canals require less body hygiene care than other parts of the body, because they are sensitive, and the body system adequately cares for these parts. Most of the time the ear canals are self-cleaning; that is, there is a slow and orderly migration of the skin lining the ear canal from the eardrum to the outer opening of the ear. Old earwax is constantly being transported from the deeper areas of the ear canal out to the opening where it usually dries, flakes, and falls out. Attempts to clean the ear canals through the removal of earwax can actually reduce ear canal cleanliness by pushing debris and foreign material into the ear that the natural movement of ear wax out of the ear would have removed.
Excessive body hygiene of the skin can result in skin irritation. The skin has a natural layer of oil, which promotes elasticity, and protects the skin from drying. When washing, unless using aqueous creams with compensatory mechanisms, this layer is removed leaving the skin unprotected.
Excessive application of soaps, creams, and ointments can also adversely affect certain of the natural processes of the skin. For examples, soaps and ointments can deplete the skin of natural protective oils and fat-soluble content such as cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), and external substances can be absorbed, to disturb natural hormonal balances.
Culinary hygiene pertains to the practices related to food management and cooking to prevent food contamination, prevent food poisoning and minimize the transmission of disease to other foods, humans or animals. Culinary hygiene practices specify safe ways to handle, store, prepare, serve and eat food.
Culinary practices include:
Personal service hygiene pertains to the practices related to the care and use of instruments used in the administration of personal care services to people:
Personal hygiene practices include:
The earliest written account of Elaborate codes of hygiene can be found in several Hindu texts, such as the Manusmriti and the Vishnu Purana. Bathing is one of the five Nitya karmas (daily duties) in Hinduism, and not performing it leads to sin, according to some scriptures.
Regular bathing was a hallmark of Roman civilization. Elaborate baths were constructed in urban areas to serve the public, who typically demanded the infrastructure to maintain personal cleanliness. The complexes usually consisted of large, swimming pool-like baths, smaller cold and hot pools, saunas, and spa-like facilities where individuals could be depilated, oiled, and massaged. Water was constantly changed by an aqueduct-fed flow. Bathing outside of urban centers involved smaller, less elaborate bathing facilities, or simply the use of clean bodies of water. Roman cities also had large sewers, such as Rome's Cloaca Maxima, into which public and private latrines drained. Romans didn't have demand-flush toilets but did have some toilets with a continuous flow of water under them. (Similar toilets are seen in Acre Prison in the film Exodus.)
Until the late 19th Century, only the elite in Western cities typically possessed indoor facilities for relieving bodily functions. The poorer majority used communal facilities built above cesspools in backyards and courtyards. This changed after Dr. John Snow discovered that cholera was transmitted by the fecal contamination of water. Though it took decades for his findings to gain wide acceptance, governments and sanitary reformers were eventually convinced of the health benefits of using sewers to keep human waste from contaminating water. This encouraged the widespread adoption of both the flush toilet and the moral imperative that bathrooms should be indoors and as private as possible.
Since the 7th century, Islam has always placed a strong emphasis on hygiene. Other than the need to be ritually clean in time for the daily prayer (Arabic: Salat) through Wudu and Ghusl, there are a large number of other hygiene-related rules governing the lives of Muslims. Other issues include the Islamic dietary laws. In general, the Qur'an advises Muslims to uphold high standards of physical hygiene and to be ritually clean whenever possible.
Contrary to popular belief and although the Early Christian leaders[who?] condemned bathing as unspiritual, bathing and sanitation were not lost in Europe with the collapse of the Roman Empire. Soapmaking first became an established trade during the so-called "Dark Ages". The Romans used scented oils (mostly from Egypt), among other alternatives.
Northern Europeans were not in the habit of bathing: in the ninth century Notker the Stammerer, a Frankish monk of St Gall, related a disapproving anecdote that attributed ill results of personal hygiene to an Italian fashion:
There was a certain deacon who followed the habits of the Italians in that he was perpetually trying to resist nature. He used to take baths, he had his head very closely shaved, he polished his skin, he cleaned his nail, he had his hair cut as short as if it were turned on a lathe, and he wore linen underclothes and a snow-white shirt.
Secular medieval texts constantly refer to the washing of hands before and after meals, but Sone de Nansay, hero of a 13th century romance, discovers to his chagrin that the Norwegians do not wash up after eating. In the 11th and 12th centuries, bathing was essential to the Western European upper class: the Cluniac monasteries to which they resorted or retired were always provided with bathhouses, and even the monks were required to take full immersion baths twice a year, at the two Christian festivals of renewal, though exhorted not to uncover themselves from under their bathing sheets. In 14th century Tuscany, the newlywed couple's bath together was such a firm convention one such couple, in a large coopered tub, is illustrated in fresco in the town hall of San Gimignano.
So bathing had fallen out of fashion in Northern Europe long before the Renaissance, when the communal public baths of German cities were in their turn a wonder to Italian visitors. Bathing was replaced by the heavy use of sweat-bathing and perfume, as it was thought in Europe that water could carry disease into the body through the skin. (Water, in fact, does carry disease, but more often if it is drunk than if one bathes in it; and water only carries disease if it is contaminated by pathogens.) Bathing encouraged an erotic atmosphere that was played upon by the writers of romances intended for the upper class; in the tale of Melusine the bath was a crucial element of the plot. "Bathing and grooming were regarded with suspicion by moralists, however, because they unveiled the attractiveness of the body. Bathing was said to be a prelude to sin, and in the penitential of Burchard of Worms we find a full catalogue of the sins that ensued when men and women bathed together." Medieval church authorities believed that public bathing created an environment open to immorality and disease; the 26 public baths of Paris in the late 13th century were strictly overseen by the civil authorities. At a later date Roman Catholic Church officials even banned public bathing in an unsuccessful effort to halt syphilis epidemics from sweeping Europe.
Modern sanitation was not widely adopted until the 19th and 20th centuries. According to medieval historian Lynn Thorndike, people in Medieval Europe probably bathed more than people did in the 19th century.
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