Simple hygiene tips that can have a lasting, positive impact | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Simple hygiene tips that can have a lasting, positive impact

Metro Creative

Maintaining clean, short fingernails can reduce a person’s risk for potentially harmful infections.

Personal hygiene isn't about just looking good. The effects of maintaining personal hygiene are myriad and include reducing one's susceptibility to infection and decreasing the risk for disease.

Because personal hygiene can have such a profound impact on overall health, some may feel that they need to go to great lengths to maintain their hygiene. But that's not the case. In fact, the following are a handful of simple ways that men, women and children can maintain their personal hygiene.

Wash your hands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that is one of the most important steps a person can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. After using the toilet, changing a diaper or handling raw meats that have invisible fecal matter from animals on them, people who do not wash their hands can spread germs such as salmonella, E. coli and norovirus. In addition, feces from people or animals can contribute to the spread of respiratory infections, including adenovirus and hand-foot-mouth disease. A 2008 study into the efficacy of handwashing published in the American Journal of Public Health found that improvements in hand hygiene resulted in a 31 percent reduction in gastrointestinal illnesses and a 21 percent reduction in respiratory illnesses.

Clean and trim your fingernails. Some may consider cleaning and trimming one's fingernails a purely cosmetic activity, but proper grooming of nails can reduce a person's risk for infection. For example, keeping fingernails clean and short can help to prevent and control pinworm infection, which the CDC notes is the most common worm infection in the United States. Pinworms are small, white roundworms that sometimes live in the colon and rectum of humans. People infected with pinworms may itch or scratch infected areas, ultimately spreading the pinworms if they do not wash their hands and trim and clean their fingernails. Reinfection may occur among people infected with pinworms who do not clean their hands and fingernails and keep their fingernails short.

Brush and floss your teeth. There's more to personal hygiene than cleaning hands and fingernails. The American Dental Association notes that the mouth is filled with bacteria, some of which can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease, which has been linked to problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and bacterial pneumonia. The presence of periodontitis, an advanced from of gum disease that can result in tooth loss and, in pregnant women, can even increase a woman's risk of delivering preterm and/or delivering low-birth-weight infants. Brushing your teeth thoroughly twice per day and flossing between the teeth once per day can improve your overall health and contribute to fresh breath.

Personal hygiene can help people look their best, but the most significant benefit to emphasizing personal hygiene might be the effects that such an emphasis has on overall health.