Hygiene refers to practices that maintain cleanliness. Good hygiene helps preserve health and prevent the spread of diseases. Hygiene is particularly important for women because they have unique issues that can predispose to infections or diseases if proper cleanliness is not maintained.
There are numerous proper hygiene practices every woman should follow depending on her stage in life. Good hygiene for women should begin from childhood and continue throughout life. This article will discuss habits and practices that would help preserve the health of women, which would in turn positively influence the health of the community, since women play a pivotal role in the family and the society.
- General cleanliness for all women includes bathing and brushing the teeth twice a day. Bathe with a mild soap to remove germs and dead cells from the skin’s surface. This would help prevent skin infections and body odor. Brushing the teeth with a soft toothbrush in the morning and before going to bed helps remove the germs that build up in and around the teeth that can cause tooth decay, gum infections and mouth odor. After brushing your teeth, gargle your mouth with mouthwash. In addition, floss once a day. Floss all your teeth, curving the floss into a ‘c’ shape and rubbing it up and down against each tooth.
- Ensure that your bathroom is clean at all times. When you go to the bathroom, clean from ‘front-to-back’ and not from ‘back-to-front’ to prevent spreading germs that can cause urinary tract infection. When you are on your period, desist from using toilet paper, pieces of cloth, or other unsanitary items. Use new sanitary pads or tampons and change soiled ones every two to six hours, discarding them properly.
- Always wear clean underwear, change your bath towel at least once a week, and avoid sharing clothing with others. In addition, wash your hair regularly, at least once in two weeks, depending on your hair type. Women who neglect to wash their hair may have a higher risk for odor, scalp fungal infections, etc. Keep the environment around you clean and uncluttered to prevent infections, pest infestation, and injuries.
- Hand washing is the single most important practice that prevents the spread of infections. Wash your hands after using the bathroom, before handling food, when you return home from outside, and after you touch anything dirty. Keep your nails short and neat. Avoid using long artificial nails; they harbor germs that are dangerous for your health and the health of your loved ones around you. Also, when you go for a manicure or pedicure, ensure that the nail technician washes his/her hands between clients, the stations are clean with no dirty tools strewn around, and the equipment used on you have been appropriately disinfected. Ask the nail technician how they clean their tools or consider going to the salon with your own tools.
However, some hygiene practices have not been shown to be helpful, and some do more harm than good. One example is douching, which is using a liquid, to clean the vagina. Douching has been shown to be associated with female genital tract infections, which could ascend into the fallopian tubes and result in complications such as infertility and pregnancy outside the womb (which could be life-threatening). One way it does this is by removing protective bacteria and allowing overgrowth of germs that cause diseases.
The topics discussed in this article are not comprehensive; you can get more information through trusted medical sources, like your appropriately-credentialed health provider and websites of accredited medical associations. Finally, be wary of forwarded emails, Whatsapp messages, Facebook posts, etc. Their sources may be unknown and they may contain erroneous- and even dangerous- information.
- National Institute on Aging (2016). Taking care of your teeth and mouth. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/taking-care-your-teeth-and-mouth
- Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care [IQWiG] (2011). Preventing cystitis. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279405/
- House, S., Mahon, T. & Cavill, S. (2012). Menstrual hygiene matters. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/rnmKix
- Bloomfield, S. F., Aiello, A. E., Cookson, B., O’Boyle, C., Larson, E. L. (2007). The effectiveness of hand hygiene procedures in reducing the risks of infections in home and community settings including handwashing and alcohol-based hand sanitizers. American Journal of Infection Control 35(10). DOI: 10.1016/j.ajic.2007.07.001
- American Academy of Dermatology (2018). Manicure and pedicure safety. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/nail-care/manicure-safety
- Martino, J. L. & Vermund, S. H. (2002). Vaginal douching: Evidence for risks or benefits to women’s health. Epidemiologic Reviews 24(2). Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/epirev/article/24/2/109/534985