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There are various divisions of hygiene yet they all have the same goal which is to prevent the spread of disease.  Hygiene should not be confused with cleanliness.  As hygiene is to prevent disease spread, cleaning techniques are often involved in this process.  Cleaning techniques such as hand washing and antiseptic products are methods used to promote hygienic practices.

Types of Hygiene

Home and everyday life hygiene is the practice of hygiene in the home setting.  Disease can be spread from food, domestic animals, water and between individuals.  The goal of home hygiene is to break the spread of transmission and includes:


  • Hand hygiene refers to the use of disinfectant and antibacterial soaps or sanitizers to prevent the spread of microbes from contaminated hands.  Most important times to wash hands include: after going to the washroom, after touching foods (particularly raw foods), before eating, after handling domestic animals, after wiping or blowing nose and after contact with any contaminated surface.

  • Respiratory hygiene refers to correct sneezing and coughing practices to prevent disease transmission. Coughing or sneezing into your sleeve prevents contaminating the hands, thus minimizing spread of infection. Washing hands immediately after blowing nose, coughing or sneezing also helps prevents spread of disease.


  • Proper food hygiene includes cooking food to high enough cooking temperatures for appropriate lengths of time, separating raw and cooked foods, storing food at appropriate temperature for appropriate amount of time, adequately washing cooking utensils or cutting boards and maintaining proper hand hygiene when handling and cooking food. [7.1]


  • Household water treatment and safe storage are practices that can be used by individuals in the home to ensure safe drinking water.  Using a carbon filter, boiling [[water]], solar disinfection are methods that can be used to prevent the spread of disease. 


  • Hygiene in the kitchen, bathroom and toilet. Proper cleaning of the bathroom and kitchen can prevent spread of disease. These areas can remain warm and moist and therefore, promote the growth of moulds.  Ensuring adequate scrubbing can prevent the growth of moulds and spread of disease.  Proper cleaning of contact areas such as kitchen cupboard handles, toilet seats, toilet flush handles and bath tubs can help prevent the spread of microorganisms.


  • Laundry hygiene prevents the spread of microorganisms between linens and contaminated clothing.  Fabrics that come into direct contact with the individual can carry various organisms that need to be eliminated in the laundry in order to prevent spread of disease.  Washing clothing at 60°C water kills most pathogens.  Washing clothing at 30-40°C with bleach is also effective at eradicating pathogens. For a more environmentally sound way to do laundry, increase the temperature of the laundry cycles before considering the use of bleach.

  • Body hygiene refers to the care of an individual’s body in order to promote health and well-being.  Body hygiene has become customary for social acceptance.  Body hygiene practices include: teeth brushing, flossing, showering, use of shampoos, deodorants, skin cleansers, use of toilet paper etc. Choose personal care products and body hygiene products that don’t contain harmful chemicals and substances linked to AMR.

  • Stay home and avoid crowds when sick. Preventing spread of microbes to other people reduces the treatments necessary and therefore, the risk of AMR.

Hygiene Hypothesis / Microbial Diversity Hypothesis

The hygiene hypothesis was first proposed in 1989 by David Strachan, who noticed a decrease in allergic rhinitis (runny nose due to allergies) in individuals who were born into big families. [7.2]

The theory suggests that a decrease in exposure to microorganism early in life increases the risk of allergic conditions and auto-immunity.  Historically, individuals lived on farms, were born into large families, attended day-care setting and had domestic pets which increased the body’s exposure to microorganisms. Part of the exposure historically was also via food and drinks that weren’t completely sterilized eg. the organic apple that was washed free of dirt but still contained some microbes on its surface, the unpasteurized milk that still contain healthful microbes.  Hygiene practices were also not what they are today exposing an individual to numerous pathogenic agents, which in turn challenged and strengthened their immune system.  Today, with individuals living in urban setting and the rise in body hygiene and hygienic techniques such as antibacterial products, disinfectants and sterilization techniques the body is not exposed to as many microorganisms as it once was.  This decrease in exposure has not allowed immune systems to develop optimally given rise to an increase in auto-immune conditions, asthma, allergies and eczema.  Decreasing exposure to certain known pathogens through hygienic practices has helped prevent the spread of disease, however over sanitization have been suggested to increase the number of allergic conditions in the young.

Although hygiene is essential in today’s world to prevent the spread of disease, there are some concerns that it may be taken too far.  The over-use of antibacterial agents has created a more sterile environment which, in itself, has contributed to health concerns.  The spread of infectious agents has decreased, yet the incidence of allergic and auto-immune conditions seems to be on the rise.  A balance between hygienic practices and exposure to a relatively low level of relatively harmless microorganisms is essential for a healthy immune system.   Conditions associated with over-sterilization include:

Exposure to microorganisms early in life helps train the immune system to become more tolerant of more healthful microorganisms and therefore, more hyporeactive in a healthy state.  If the immune system is not given the opportunity to be appropriately trained, it may become hypersensitive and react too vigorously to relatively benign microbes and other substances. A hypersensitive immune system can contribute to an increased rate of allergic conditions including asthma, allergic rhinitis (runny nose), itchy watery eyes, and atopic dermatitis.  

In the western world auto-immune conditions are on the rise.  This seems to be due to a lack of exposure to certain known ‘good’ bacteria early in life.  The exposure to these bacteria has decreased substantially given a link to the cause of auto-immune conditions.


In order to prevent the disease associated with over-sterilization and sanitization it is essential to follow a few guidelines.

  • Choose natural products whenever possible: choose natural deodorants, toothpastes, shampoos, conditions, creams etc. that do not rid the body of its natural oils and natural protective barriers.  This will allow the body the opportunity to create a natural amount of healthy oils at a regular rate.  Using chemically based products will wipe the body of its natural oils forcing one to shower, shampoo, cleanse more than necessary.  This will lead to over drying of the skin and hair. Naturally based shampoos will allow one to wash their hair 1 to 2 times a week which is the naturally required amount, instead of the average, which is every day. 

  • When exposed to harmful or potential bacteria, wash your hands frequently and appropriately with soap and water.

  • It is important to read labels and minimize the use of products containing substances (eg. triclosan, benzalkonium chloride) that have been linked to an increase in AMR.

    Key Points                                
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