Hygiene has suddenly gained unprecedented importance in our lives. While basic hygiene practices such as washing our hands after returning home from work or before sitting down for a meal have always been a part of our routine, an entire global conversation has emerged around it, overnight. For instance, hand hygiene is now a critical part of the World Health Organisation (WHO), along with an increased emphasis on fumigation and sanitation of all public spaces to safeguard everyone from falling prey to any infectious diseases. Frequent and rigorous cleaning protocols through all common areas with disinfectants and sanitizer ULV fog sprayers have been implemented to maintain community hygiene. Today, most of us are armed with a pocket-friendly sanitizer bottle, and sanitizer stands are now a common sight at almost all public spaces, including the entrance of residential and commercial buildings. In fact, it is being said that the personal hygiene market is set to cross $15 billion by 2023, and the hand sanitizers segment alone will be worth more than Rs 2000 crore by the year 2025.
Enforcing Hygiene & Health
The Government of India on its part has escalated their ongoing dialogue around public health and hygiene. Not just cleanliness protocols to be followed at government institutions or schools, but there is an increased awareness on safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, especially among the underserved communities. Unlike the educated lot, this cohort still lags behind when it comes to hygiene practices. Many of them may have been even left out of the rising conversations around the risk of contracting infections if these are not followed in current times. The government has stepped up to reach out to the most vulnerable of the citizens and ensured that health and hygiene be made a shared value than a priority of a privileged few. With options such as staggered work hours and work from home, along with frequent deep-cleaning, sanitisation, and fumigation, India Inc., is also at the forefront of driving the focus on hygiene and health at the workplace.
These habits and practices – should have come to us a few decades ago – when we could have easily eliminated many infectious diseases such as Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Gastroenteritis and even serious ones like Tuberculosis. However, it’s never too late – if we continue these now, our country could become a developed nation from a disease management point of view.
Sustainable hygiene with health
While an extensive focus on hygiene is a welcome change, the practices that we employ also need to be sustainable for our long term health. To that effect, it is important to know that the disinfectants that we use in our everyday life either for personal or surface hygiene, could prove to be harmful in the long-run, if not chosen wisely. The WHO’s note on sanitation has warned that disinfectants should be selected carefully, and their concentration should be noted to avoid causing damage to the surfaces on which it is used and, indeed, to people.
Furthermore, it advised to keep children, pets and other people away during the application of such products and to wash one’s hands after using disinfectants. This is because such preparations can become toxic to human health and environment if used indiscriminately and are known to have toxic and hazardous impact on the environment when released by evaporation. Antimicrobial agents like triclosan, which are found in many personal and home hygiene products, are raising concerns among scientists for their potential impact on both human health and the environment.
Choosing sustainable solutions is important for maintaining everyone’s health in the long run. Luckily, there are options available that address both our needs and our concerns. Such “soft hygiene” solutions use the anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties of natural ingredients such as neem, turmeric, lemon – to name a few – to offer protections that’s as complete as offered by chemical-based disinfectants and sanitizers. Moreover, the absence of powerful chemicals in these products makes them friendlier and safer for use even over longer periods of time. They are also safe to use around children and pets. Not just surface cleaners, one should also be particular about personal hygiene products such as a sanitizer or wipes. The WHO has recommended alcohol-based hand sanitizers for frequent hand hygiene, which are mainly made up from ethanol, isopropyl alcohols, hydrogen peroxides in different combinations. Using ones with an organic base can be helpful as these are not harsh on your skin and does not put you at a risk of any dermal problems.
Make hygiene a part of life in a manner that washing our hands or applying a sanitiser becomes a natural reflex before sitting down for a meal. Make wise choices and be empathetic by avoiding visits to crowded places for maintaining a social distance and be a hero by taking a sick day from work if feeling unwell, instead of ignoring the symptoms. Remember, hygiene is important but so is health and one cannot be compromised for the other. Focusing on both at the same time will help us live a much-needed balanced life.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.