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Wash your hands and save your family from diseases

SIR FRANK PETERS :: Wash your hands and save your family from diseases. Washing hands properly stops the spread of germs and prevent illnesses like influenza, bronchitis, swine flu, diphtheria, measles, conjunctivitis, leprosy, chicken pox and scabies among many more, not to mention unwelcomed nasties like acne and other skin problems and diseases.

Washing your hands properly is as important to your loved ones as it is to you – and vice-versa. It can literally save their lives, as well as yours, and prevent numerous diseases.

Washing hands properly stops the spread of germs and prevent illnesses like influenza, bronchitis, swine flu, diphtheria, measles, conjunctivitis, leprosy, chicken pox and scabies among many more, not to mention unwelcomed ‘Yuk’ horribles like acne and other skin problems and diseases.

Note the keyword here is ‘properly’, not just washing hands, as most people do.

If gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded to people who washed their hands properly, there would be very few in circulation.

Yet, washing hands properly (see diagram) is one of the best defences everyone has against contracting all kinds of nasty unwelcomed diseases, facial skin disorders, and other ailments, but that’s only if it’s done properly. A quick rub here, a quick swish there, just isn’t good enough, the medical experts tell us.

Many germs, the brazen little rascals, are Olympic standard hide-and-seek players and extremely good at what they do. They have to be; their lives depend on it.

And they laugh mockingly when they play ‘now-you-see-me, now-you-don’t’ because the little scoundrels know they are invisible to the human eye – no camouflage necessary!

Despite their microscopic size, the saying ‘there’s power in numbers’ is very appropriate here. Once they gang-up on their victim in their thousands, all hell breaks loose in a variety of unpleasant ways – ailments, disorders, and diseases – they’re not fussy or prejudiced in any way. Their catch phrase is a Hollywood cliché ‘conquer and destroy’!

And talk about a David and Goliath accomplishment; these little fellas are supreme and in the grand scheme of things, command respect, however begrudgingly. They get the job done or die trying in true musketeer tradition – one for all and all for one!

Surprisingly, despite their almighty power to reduce the toughest among us to tears and send us to head-bent low bed feeling sorry for ourselves, their Achilles heal is quite simply the application of good hygiene. They run a mile from soapy suds, no doubt tripping over each other and screaming for their mothers’ help and for mercy in the process.

Proper hygienic practices are the most advanced weapons we have against such terrorist attacks without risking our health and the most essential to the wellbeing of not only ourselves, but that of others, especially our family and those with whom we have contact.

Washing hands properly and regularly with soap and clean running water (hot or cold doesn’t matter) can help stop the spread of germs, prevent fungi, allergies, and a catalogue of illnesses.

Let’s face it, soap is inexpensive and hand washing properly requires little effort, but the benefits are mammoth. When you wash your hands properly you are doing yourself a favour and giving yourself a bit of love.

There are more than 3.5 million children under the age of five who die every year worldwide from diarrhoeal disease and pneumonia – and many deaths are preventable.

Surprisingly, hand washing has the potential to save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention and billions of dollars in medical expenses and medicines.

Although most people clean their hands with water, medical science tells us that it’s not good enough and the use of soap is essential. If ordinary plain soap is powerful in killing germs, then ‘antibacterial’ and ‘antimicrobial soaps would really pack a punch and knock the stuffing out of them, one would think, but apparently that’s not the case.

A recent study by a team at the Korea University in Seoul lead by Dr. M. S. Rhee shows little significant difference between the bacterial effects of plain soap and antibacterial soap when used under real-life conditions.

A recent study by Michigan State University claims most people wash their hands for only six-seconds whereas 20 seconds is recommended.

To convey the message of hygiene to the populace effectively, it would help enormously if hospitals, diagnostic centres, doctors’ surgeries and such like weren’t so hypocritical and set the example in their own facilities by providing soap for the purpose, rather than merely wallpapering the walls with posters. Some I’ve visited in Bangladesh over the years have appalling hygiene standards, no soap and filthy hand-towels.

There can never be enough emphasis on good hygiene practices such as washing your hands properly with (cheap) soap and running water, cleaning all utensils before cooking and keeping cooking places clean to prevent communicable diseases.

If ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’, as they say, then washing hands must produce heavenly benefits to be experienced here on earth!

(Written as a community service for the prevention of illness by Sir Frank Peters, an award-winning writer, and a former newspaper publisher and editor.)

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