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Advantages Of Hand-washing. - Health - Nairaland

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Advantages Of Hand-washing. by Damifest(m): 3:28pm On Nov 23, 2014
This is a habit that many people
find difficult to maintain for a
variety of reasons. For some, it is
because they have no access to
clean potable water that would
enhance their efforts at
maintaining a healthy sanitation.
For others, it is because they do
not have the financial wherewithal
to purchase soap that would assist
them in keeping clean. It is
amazing but very true. When in
many households across the
nation, families are hard-pressed
to have some disposable N100 in
cash at the end of each working
day, the provision of soap is not a
priority. Dirtiness and disease will
not be far away from the people
who live under such
circumstances. The habit of
washing the hands frequently is a
good one. It is proven that
between 65 and 70 per cent of all
communicable diseases are
preventable by washing the hands
alone. It is pointless washing
those hands with water alone.
Soap must be an accompaniment
so that it can help remove the oils
and other greasy materials on the
hands that trap dirt and bacteria.
Other common techniques for hand
washing include the use of wipes
usually among the affluent people
and in healthcare facilities. In
addition, some types of wipes are
impregnated with antibiotic
compounds that are designed to
produce the most beneficial results
in terms of antibiotic clearance.
Some others are soapy in texture
and thus geared to cleanse the
hands more effectively than a
simple wipe alone. The most
complete solution to the act of
cleaning the hands is provided by
the hand sanitiser, an ethanol
based solution that cleanses
effectively and dehydrates any
organisms that linger on in the
hands. A combination of soap and
water plus the hand sanitiser is a
sure way to avoid many of the
common infectious diseases that
plague mankind especially in the
poorest communities of the world.
Some of the very common
infections which the practice of
washing the hands can help
prevent include the following:

Salmonella: This is one of the
common tropical diseases that
exists in close relationship to poor
sanitation and poverty. It is the
organism responsible for typhoid
fever, also called enteric fever and
is found in poultry products
particularly chicken and eggs.
Faeces from animals and other
people is an important source of
the bacteria which cause these
illnesses. Proper hand washing
techniques help to reduce or
eliminate them. Infection with this
organism leads to headaches,
malaise, abdominal cramps and
vomiting. There could also be
associated constipation in the
early stage of the disease followed
by diarrhoea. Fever and severe
headaches are other features of the
disease.

Escherichia coli: This is another
organism commonly found in the
faeces of both man and animals. It
is responsible for a variety of
infections commonly in the
intestinal tract where its presence
leads to diarrhoea often associated
with abdominal cramps and
vomiting. It can lead to rapid
dehydration of its victims without
adequate treatment.

Norovirus: This commonly
manifests with abdominal pain and
diarrhoea and is found in
situations where you have a lot of
people living in close proximity.
This is a viral infection essentially
spread through food and often
from one person to another after
the initial infection is established.
It is thus a fact seen in
dormitories, in labourers’ camps
and aboard ships like cruise liners.
Other viruses: This group includes
the adenoviruses which commonly
spread respiratory tract infections
that are deadly in the extremes of
life. The small children and the
very elderly are particularly at risk
of suffering these infections and
they are spread most notoriously
by way of unwashed hands. This is
especially true when such hands
touch towels and handkerchiefs.

Campylobacter: These are bacteria
that cause diarrhoeal diseases.
There are associated abdominal
cramps, fever and vomiting. There
may also be nausea and
sometimes, the diarrhoea is
accompanied with blood stains. It
is commonly found in exposed
meat especially chicken and is
thus spread from one person to
another when they have the
bacteria in their unwashed hands.
Recently, this was found in over
half of chickens in the United
Kingdom.

Methicillin-Resistant
Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA):
This is a bacterial infection that is
spread by touching. It is easily
passed from one person to another
and is a feared complication for
any hospital patient because it is
so difficult to treat. Many people
touch their eyes, nose, nostrils and
even their mouth without being
conscious of the act. Those parts
of the body contain millions of
Staphylococcus aureus that
essentially live in a mutually
beneficial relationship with their
human hosts but will cause an
infection if the nature of that
relationship is altered. If they get
into the blood stream for example,
they can cause potentially fatal
disease.

Influenza (Flu): This is another
disease condition caused by
various influenza viruses. It is
commonly a mild disease that
could last for several days or
weeks but may sometimes be
severe enough to warrant
hospitalisation. This virus is
spread by hand and is made so
when bare hands handle pieces of
clothing, towels and handkerchiefs
used by a sufferer and is thus able
to pass it on to others when those
hands have not been washed.

Impetigo: This is a severe skin
infection often seen in children. It
forms blisters large and small and
resembles burns. It is caused by
both streptococci and
staphylococci. It often resolves
with antibiotic treatment but is
liable to cause severe illness in
children and adults that are in a
state of diminished immunity. This
infection is rapidly spread by
unwashed hands carrying the
bacteria from one child to another.

Hepatitis A: This viral disease is
spread to humans from
contaminated food. It causes
mostly mild disease. Sometimes
this is severe with jaundice,
weakness, anorexia, malaise and
vomiting. It is a highly contagious
liver infection caused when
someone who fails to wash his
hands properly after using the
toilet somehow takes the virus into
his mouth through his
contaminated hands and swallows
it.

Shigellosis: This is also a bacterial
infection caused similarly to
Hepatitis A as above. It causes a
violent, bloody diarrhoea that
leaves its victims very weak and
very quickly in need of aggressive
medical attention. It is highly
contagious and is often spread to
several people by one
contaminated person.

Ebola virus disease: This is a
lethal disease currently ravaging
parts of West Africa in an outbreak
that has killed more people today
than in all the other previous
outbreaks together since 1976
when it first happened. The habit
of proper hand-washing is known
to help control the spread of the
virus.
Sometimes, the diseases that are
spread by contaminated hands are
done innocuously. There may have
been no direct contact between the
hand and the next person but
spread may be indirect through
door handles, table-tops, cell
phones, and toys particularly in
the case of children. As a result,
the most useful way in which to
break the lines of spread is by
scrupulously adhering to a code of
healthy practices anchored on
proper hand washing techniques.
This must not only be made
possible by providing soap and
water; it is better if running water
is what is provided. We all
therefore, have a stake in ensuring
that we slow the spread of some of
these diseases by learning to make
proper hand-washing a part of our
daily engagements.

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