In the Army, personal hygiene is defined as the measures each individual must employ to keep in good physical condition and the precautions he must take to protect himself from disease. As such, not only cleanliness of the body, but also proper use of insect repellents, avoidance of unauthorized water and food, and any other measure that the soldier is directed to take to preserve his health are included. The basic principle of cleanliness of person and neat appearance of troops is a traditional policy of the Army. As more became known about the transmission of disease, stress was placed upon particular phases of personal hygiene, such as washing hands after using the latrine, and proper use by the individual of sanitary measures for disposal of waste and purification of water.
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As with all aspects of military sanitation, commanding officers were responsible for enforcement of the provisions concerning personal hygiene. The Medical Department was to conduct inspections and recommend appropriate action to correct deficiencies. The paragraph of AR 40-205 devoted specifically to personal cleanliness stated:
Every member of a command will bathe once daily while in garrison, and in the field at least once weekly. The hands will be washed before each meal and immediately after visiting a latrine. Teeth will be cleaned with a brush at least once a day. Fingernails will be cut short and kept clean. The hair will be kept short and the beard neatly trimmed. Clothing and bedding will be kept clean. Soiled clothing will be kept in barrack bags. At prescribed physical inspections particular attention will be given to personal cleanliness. Unit commanders were instructed to determine that the men of their commands had been properly fitted with socks and shoes and that all foot defects were suitably cared for. An undue amount of foot injury and disability from shoes was to be regarded as evidence of inefficiency on the part of responsible officers.
Precautions for care of feet during marches were specified. Before long or protracted marches, unit commanders were to inspect the bare feet of their men for defects which might require treatment. While on marches, commanders were to have their men wash their feet each day as soon as practicable after reaching camp, cover blisters or excoriations with a light dressing or zinc oxide plaster, dust the feet with foot powder, and put on clean socks. Measures that the individual soldier could take for his own protection, as well as measures the Army would take for him, were included in each of the appropriate sections. Under mosquito control were listed the proper wearing of clothing, use of repellents, and use of bed nets. Frequent and thorough bathing was specified as one of the precautions against body lice.
During the Revolutionary War many generals, such as Tilton, Brocklesby, and Washington invoked the Mosaic Sanitary Code which is a standard of field sanitation established in the King James version of the Old Testament in the Fourth and Fifth books of Moses. Many of these orders came with threats of punishment for officers who did not enforce them amoung the men and penalties (including being sent in front of a firing squad) for those men found not in compliance with said orders. At the end of the horrible winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge, Washington made one of his periodic inspections of the camp. According to a note in the Orderly Book of Brig. Gen. George Weedon on 13 March 1778, Washington found the camp filthy, with carcasses of dead horses and much offal in the streets, and “nastiness, is spread amongst ye Hutts, which will soon be reduc’d to a state of putrefaction and cause a Sickly Camp.”
Following this, on 13 March 1778, Washington issued general orders from Headquarters, Valley Forge which have a plaintive tone combined with solicitude and sternness: “The Commander-in-Chief: Out of tender regard for ye lives & health of his brave Soldiery, and with surprise that so little attention is paid to his orders, He again in ye most positive terms, orders & commands “clean up the camp and observe the manifold regulations regarding cleanliness.” Infectious diseases are a major preventive medicine problem for U.S. Army Soldiers living in close quarters. Some of these infections are caused by direct person-to-person contact, but a vast majority of infections are caused by the germs found on surfaces. Improved hygiene can help reduce the spread of infection. An effective hygiene plan must start with accepting that disease-causing bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa are always indoors on people, food, insects, and potentially in the air. Cleaning must be adequate to reduce germs to a level which is not harmful to health. A sterile environment is not expected. To achieve a hygienically clean (as opposed to visibly clean) surface the germs must either be removed or they must be killed by disinfection.
Methods of hygienically cleaning sites and surfaces include detergent-based cleaning followed by rinsing, and the use of disinfecting agents. The hands are probably the most important cause of cross-contamination and cross-infection. The World Health Organization suggests that sanitation-related disease in developing countries could be reduced by up to 60% if people washed their hands after defecating. Acute respiratory infections (colds, sore throats, bronchitis) are most frequently transmitted by droplets from coughing or sneezing. Using tissues or shirt sleeves to interrupt these droplets are effective ways to prevent transmission. However, coughing or sneezing into your hands allows the spread of the germs to other parts of the body (through the eyes or breaks in skin, etc.) or to other individuals through touch.
Toilets, showers, and sinks can become reservoirs of germs. Moisture and residual soil at these sites provide an ideal environment for the growth of germs. Exposure to disease-causing germs from contaminated floors and furnishings is very low. Germs are usually transferred from environmental surfaces to individuals by hand contact with the surface. Household bleach with water is the recommended disinfectant solution. It is effective, economical, convenient, and readily available. The solution of bleach and water is easy to mix, safe if handled properly, and kills most infectious germs.
Standards of personal hygiene varied according both to the facilities available and the type of combat the individual was engaged in. Theater preventive medicine officers at all levels realized the necessity for convincing company officers of the importance of command responsibility for enforcing adequate standards of personal hygiene. The relative role of personal hygiene in control of disease varied considerably according to the degree of unit sanitation and area control achieved and according to the degree of specific protection afforded by measures such as immunization. There are few outbreaks of disease in which only one factor can be implicated; it is therefore difficult in most cases to correlate specifically good or bad personal hygiene with disease incidence. A continuing educational program, combined with frequent inspection by both commanders and medical personnel, was found necessary to keep individual health observance at proper levels.
A problem of the Medical Department was to convince line officers of their responsibility in enforcing health precautions, such as water discipline, eating only authorized foods, care of the feet, and proper wearing of the uniform for protection against arthropod vectors of disease. The soldier, too, had to be convinced of the relationship between his actions and his health and the health of his entire unit. Agencies were set up, within the Office of The Surgeon General and at all major command levels, to insure the dissemination of information necessary for the soldier to safeguard his health. The effectiveness with which personal hygiene measures were applied, both in training situations and in active theaters, varied widely.
Experienced observers agree that there were numerous lapses from established minimum standards and that, in future military operations, thorough training in personal hygiene will be necessary. This training must include not only the principles and methods to be applied, but should also serve to motivate personnel of all ranks. In addition, there must be command and medical inspections coupled with provisions for effective corrective actions.
Personal hygiene is the practice that leads to body cleanliness and good personal appearance or simply personal grooming. The personal hygiene may be in the form of bathing, hair shaving or having a hair cut, brushing the teeth, washing of hands and clothes. There are a number of reasons for good personal hygiene and thus its importance. These include social, personal, health or psychological reasons (Sivarethinamohan 330). This paper evaluates the importance of good hygiene.
The practices in personal hygiene contribute to good health. Personal hygiene helps in protection against some of the infectious diseases such as typhoid, cholera and dysentery. The practice of hand washing is often forgotten by many people yet it is one of the ways to prevent a plethora of diseases and disorders from developing (Sivarethinamohan 331). Use of unclean hands may make one, for example, contract diseases such as cholera or diarrhea. The hands should always be washed thoroughly before eating or preparing the meals so as to avoid contamination of the meals and hence minimize the development of the diseases related to the same.
Furthermore, the act of washing the hair or shaving the hair helps to minimize some of the diseases such as the dandruffs. According to Sivarethinamohan (331), untidy hair is always a hiding and breeding place for lice and these should be well treated to prevent spreading and consequently affect others especially in the learning institutions or the family members. Generally, the skin plays a significant role in protecting the body against infections (Sivarethinamohan 330). For this reasons, the skin should be cleaned regularly so as to keep it clean and stronger enough to fight infections and effectively protect the body. During the perspirations for example, the sweats contain urea which end up as deposits on the skin surface thus necessitating the cleaning of the skin through bathing. Sivarethinamohan (331) cites that some of the skin diseases such as the athlete’s foots could be prevented by proper hygiene.
On the other hand, brushing of the teeth is equally significant health wise. The teeth should be brushed at least after every meal. This helps in preventing teeth decay and other dental infections such as gingivitis and periodontal diseases. Such diseases are responsible or may contribute to halitosis. Besides the teeth, in most cases the finger nails also form hiding sites for germs causing diseases. The debris under the unclean fingernails contains microbes that lead to development of diseases.
Being social beings, people value the interactions with others. In order to be accepted socially one has to be well groomed and maintain good personal hygiene. Poor personal hygiene often leads to awful body odor as a result of accumulated sweats which harbor bacteria. It is thus important to maintain good personal hygiene since such body odors socially inhibits interactions. Tieck (8) cites that poor hygiene makes the body or clothes smell and look messy as the sweats, dirt and dead cells collect on them. Good personal hygiene projects a positive body image and a good personality (Sivarethinamohan 330).
Furthermore, good personal hygiene is important since it increases one’s interpersonal relationship especially at the places of work. Most of the employers prefer and thus employ individuals who are well-groomed. Generally none would be willing to be attended to by a poorly groomed or an unhygienic person. Poor hygiene may dissuade people from being friends with an individual. According to Tieck (7), the appearance is one of the first things people notice on anyone and therefore should be well cared for. The employees such the nurses and the medical practitioners have to practice hygiene so as to prevent any spread of diseases at their work places (Sivarethinamohan 331).
Psychological and Emotional Reasons
Being clean and well-groomed makes one to develop a positive confidence. Good personal hygiene would therefore affect one’s confidence and self-esteem (Sivarethinamohan 331). The perception that one has about himself or herself determines various aspects of their lives for example, the success in the interviews in the work places. In addition, Dingwall (2) cites that the patients would be confident to interact socially and have a feeling of well-being in case they were clean. On the other hand, when one cannot undertake personal hygiene duties as they had been accustomed to, the feeling of confidence and well-being reduces (Dingwall 2).
To some extent, the hygienic practices make people attractive especially to the opposite sex (Sivarethinamohan 331). Clear skin, clean clothes, fresh breaths and well-kempt hair make one attractive and thus enhance their social and romance life. Generally, the cleanliness enables one to attain a clearer, skin free from clogging of the sweat pores and thus one is able to enjoy body relaxation and feel good (Tieck 6).
Good personal hygiene is important since it also affects the personal life of an individual. Cleanliness makes one more attractive and grants them confidence to walk and talk without any fear of offending anyone with the body or breath odors. Sivarethinamohan (331) cites that the bright white smile endear people as opposed to unhealthy teeth that results to embarrassments especially in the social realms. Personal hygiene is also imperative especially to the elders and the parents who should be good role models especially to the children whom they look after.
In conclusion, from the above discussion good personal health is very important for personal well-being. It is clear that the cleanliness plays an important role in attaining good health, social life, interpersonal relationship and psychological well-being. It is therefore imperative to consider the hygienic practices on a daily basis.
- Dingwall, Lindsay. Personal Hygiene Care. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print.
- Sivarethinamohan, R. Industrial Relations and Labour Welfare: Text and Cases. New Delhi: PHI Learning, 2010. Print.
- Tieck, Sarah. Keep Clean: A Buddy Book. Minneapolis, MN: ABDO Pub, 2012. Print.
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