Diseases That Can be Prevented by Personal Hygiene

You can prevent getting a variety of diseases by practicing good basic personal hygiene.

Human diseases can be categorized into 3 groups:

  • Genetic diseases – diseases that are inherited from parents, such as Tay-Sachs disease and sickle cell disease.
  • Metabolic diseases – diseases that may happen as a result of the failure of normal bodily functions, such as diabetes mellitus. Metabolic diseases may also be hereditary.
  • Infectious diseases – diseases that are caused by organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites and can spread from one person to another, directly or indirectly. Some common infectious diseases include influenza, measles, and tuberculosis.

Good basic hygiene, which includes hand washing and preparing and cooking food properly, are critical in aiding infectious disease prevention.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists these hygiene-related diseases:

  • Athlete’s Foot
  • Body Lice
  • Chronic Diarrhea
  • Dental Caries
  • Head Lice
  • Hot Tub Rash
  • Lymphatic Filariasis
  • Pinworms
  • Pubic Lice (Crabs)
  • Scabies
  • Swimmer’s Ear
  • Recreational Water Illness (RWI)
  • Trachoma

Common Diseases Caused by Viruses:

  • Common cold (Rhinovirus)
  • Dengue
  • Hepatitis
  • Herpes
  • Rabies
  • Smallpox
  • Mumps

Common Diseases Caused by Bacteria:

  • Borrelia
  • Chlamydia
  • Escherichia coli
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • Salmonella
  • Staphylococcus

Common Diseases Caused by Parasites:

  • Amoebic dysentery
  • Candidiasis
  • Malaria
  • Tapeworm

When to Wash Our Hands

Numerous maladies are spread due to failure to practice good hygiene. It is important to remember to wash hands with soap and clean, running water in order to avoid getting sick and passing on the diseases to others. However, clean, running water may not always be available; in this case it is advisable to wash with available water and soap. Another alternative is to sanitize hands using alcohol or alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content.

Hand washing is recommended:

  • After using the toilet
  • After cleaning up a child who used the toilet or changing a baby’s diaper
  • After touching garbage
  • After playing outdoors
  • After touching an animal, animal food or animal waste
  • After sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose
  • Before, during and after preparing and cooking food
  • Before eating
  • Before and after caring for the sick
  • Before and after treating wounds

Proper Hand Washing

Below are tips issued by the CDC for proper hand washing:

  • Wet hands with clean, running water (if not available, use boiled or disinfected water)
  • Lather soap between your palms. Don’t forget to scrub soap on the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under the nails.
  • Rub hands together for 20 seconds.
  • Rinse thoroughly.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel, disposable towel or air dry them.
  • Use the disposable towel to turn of the faucet and open the bathroom door.

Using Alcohol and Hand Sanitizers

  • Apply alcohol or hand sanitizer on the palm of one hand.
  • Rub your hands together, making sure to cover all surfaces of your hands and fingers.

NOTE: While alcohol-based sanitizers are effective for reducing the number of germs in certain circumstances, they cannot eliminate all types of germs. Additionally, hand sanitizers are not as effective when your hands become visibly dirty or greasy.