Six Ways to Safeguard Your Health
A Challenge in Developing Lands
MANY people today must struggle to keep clean, especially in lands where safe water and adequate sanitation are scarce. Yet, keeping clean is worth the effort. It is estimated that more than half of all illnesses and deaths among young children are caused by germs that enter their mouths through dirty hands or contaminated food or water. Many illnesses, especially diarrhea, can be prevented by applying the following suggestions that are set out in Facts for Life, a publication of the United Nations Children’s Fund.
1 Safely dispose of excrement
Many germs are found in excrement. When disease-causing germs get into water and food or onto hands, utensils, or surfaces used for preparing and serving food, they may be passed into the mouth and swallowed, resulting in illness. The best way to prevent the spread of such germs is to get rid of all excrement. Human excrement should go into a toilet or latrine. Make sure there is no animal excrement near homes, pathways, or places where children play.
Where toilets or latrines are not available, bury excrement immediately. Remember that all excrement carries germs that can cause disease, even the excrement of infants. Children’s excrement should also be put down a latrine or buried.
Clean latrines and toilets frequently. Keep latrines covered and toilets flushed.
2 Wash your hands
You should wash your hands regularly. Washing them with soap and water or ash and water removes germs. Rinsing the hands with water is not enough—both hands need to be rubbed with soap or ash.
It is essential to wash your hands after defecating and after cleaning the bottom of a baby or a child who has just defecated. Also, wash your hands after handling animals, before handling food, and before feeding children.
Hand washing helps to protect people from worms that cause illness. These worms are too small to see without a microscope. They live in excrement and urine, in surface water and soil, and in raw or poorly cooked meat. A principal way to prevent worms from getting into the body is to wash your hands. Further, by wearing shoes when you are near latrines, you can prevent worms that may be there from entering your body through the skin of your feet.
Children often put their hands into their mouth, so wash their hands often, especially after they have defecated and before they eat. Teach them to wash their own hands and not to play near the latrine, toilet, or defecation areas.
3 Wash your face every day
To help prevent eye infections, wash your face with soap and water every day. Children’s faces should also be washed. A dirty face attracts flies, which carry germs. These germs can cause eye infections and even blindness.
Check your children’s eyes regularly. Healthy eyes are moist and shiny. If the eyes are dry, red, or sore or if they have a discharge, the child should be examined by a health care worker or a doctor.
4 Use only clean water
Families have fewer illnesses when they use clean water and keep it free of germs. Your water is probably clean if it comes from a properly constructed and maintained pipe system or from unpolluted wells and springs. Water from ponds, rivers, and open tanks or wells is far less likely to be clean, but it can be made safer by boiling.
Wells should be covered. Buckets, ropes, and jars that are used to collect and store water should be washed regularly and stored in a clean place, not on the ground. Animals should be kept away from drinking-water sources and from family living areas. Do not use pesticides or chemicals near a water source.
In the home, water should be kept in a clean, covered container. It is best to have a water container with a tap. If there is no tap, water should be taken out of the container with a clean ladle or cup. Drinking water should never be touched with unclean hands.
5 Protect food from germs
By thoroughly cooking food, you can kill germs. Food, especially meat and poultry, should be properly cooked. Germs multiply quickly in warm food. Therefore, food should be eaten as soon as possible after it is cooked. If you need to keep food for longer than two hours, make sure it is kept in a place that is either hot or cold. Also, if you need to save cooked food for another meal, cover it. This protects it from flies and insects. Before the food is eaten, reheat it.
Breast milk is the best and safest milk for infants and young children. Animal milk that is freshly boiled or pasteurized is safer than unboiled milk. Avoid the use of feeding bottles, unless you clean them with boiling water before each use. Feeding bottles often carry germs that cause diarrhea. It is better to breast-feed children or feed them from a clean, open cup.
Wash fruit and vegetables with clean water. This is particularly important if they are given raw to babies and young children.
6 Dispose of all household refuse
Flies, cockroaches, rats, and mice all carry germs. These creatures thrive on garbage. If there is no garbage collection where you live, put your household refuse in a garbage pit where it can be buried or burned each day. Keep your home clean and free of garbage and wastewater.
If you regularly apply these suggestions, you will soon find that they are part of your daily routine. They are not difficult and do not require much money to implement, but they will safeguard the health of you and your family.
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Where toilets or latrines are not available, bury excrement immediately
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Wash your hands regularly
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Wash your face with soap and water every day
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Families have fewer illnesses when they use clean water and keep it free of germs
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If you need to save cooked food for another meal, cover it
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Household refuse should be buried or burned each day