New research has revealed that people are putting themselves and their families in danger with careless household hygiene.
A report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that public misunderstandings about good hygiene practices could lead to serious health consequences.
Why are people confused?
The survey uncovered different areas of concern around hygiene awareness.
Almost one in four people (23 per cent) agreed with the statement “hygiene in the home is not important because children need to be exposed to harmful germs to build their immune system”.
The report explained: “This is a potentially harmful belief which could lead to children being exposed unnecessarily to harmful or even life-threatening infections.”
Professor Lisa Ackerley, RSPH Trustee and food hygiene expert, said: “Getting outdoors and playing with friends, family and pets is great for exposure to ‘good bacteria’ and building a healthy microbiome, but it’s also crucial that the public don’t get the wrong end of the stick - this doesn’t need to get in the way of good hygiene.”
The survey revealed that people think “visual cleanliness” means an absence of harmful bacteria.
It also highlighted the gaps in understanding about how germs are spread - for example reusing a dirty dishcloth, or by failing to wash clothes at a high enough temperature.
And some respondents revealed they don’t know if the term “germ” refers to any microbe, or just harmful ones.
What are the household activities that are spreading germs?
These are the times we need to take extra care to prevent harmful microbes from spreading, according to the report:
Preparing and handling foodEating with your handsAfter using the toiletWhen people are coughing, sneezing and blowing their noseHandling and washing “dirty” household cloths and clothingCaring for petsHandling and taking out the rubbishCaring for a family member with an infection
The report also stressed that the public should be focusing on how to prevent harmful microbes from spreading around their houses rather than cleaning the areas that look “dirty”.
It also highlighted that people are becoming immune to antibiotics because they’re relying on medication rather than preventing infection with good hygiene practices.
“Since the 1990s, there has been lobbying against the use of disinfectants or antibacterials in the home because of as yet unproven concerns that their use may contribute to antibiotic resistance,” the RSPH stated in the report.
It continued: “However, these products are sometimes necessary to break the chain of infection, and in doing so, avoids the need for antibiotic treatments.”
Professor Ackerley said: “Good hygiene in the home and everyday life is vitally important to protecting our children, reducing pressure on the NHS, and has a huge role to play in the battle against antibiotic resistance.”
She continued: “It is good to see the majority of the public on board with these key messages, but at the same time worrying that key misconceptions persist.”
This article originally appeared on our sister site Edinburgh Evening News