What is Personal Hygiene?


I received a phone call roughly a month ago by a young woman with questions regarding in home care in Racine. I could tell immediately by her voice and tone she was overwhelmed and exhausted. As the conversation went on she relaxed some and opened up to me about the situation she currently finds herself in. She is a single mother in her very early 20’s that has landed the responsibility of being the sole caregiver for a male family member that she hasn’t seen or heard from in years. We ended up spending around an hour on the phone covering everything from medical transportation to personal care. She had many questions and luckily, I was able to answer each one. We formed an action plan and after we hung up, my staff and I went right to work on getting her the help she needed. During the conversation she had tons of good questions and at one point said, “I’m embarrassed to ask, but the report form the crisis agency said that he ‘displayed a sever personal hygiene deficit’, what exactly does that mean? What exactly is personal hygiene?”

Working as a medical professional, I deal with all different kinds of codes, definitions, hyphens, short hands and symbols. All… Day… Long… I read it, write it and speak it (And on occasion, dream it) so much that sometimes I take it for granted that others might not know exactly what a medical term means. THEN! I got to thinkin…. How many other people are out there that want to know “What exactly is personal hygiene?”…


Webster’s defines Personal as:


adjective ˈpərs-nəl, ˈpər-sə-nəl

: belonging or relating to a particular person


And Hygiene as:


noun ˈhī-ˌjēn also hī-ˈ

: the things that you do to keep yourself and your surroundings clean in order to maintain good health


SO! Put the two together and you have~ The things you do to your own person to keep clean and maintain good health! TaaaaDaaaa!


hand shaped hygiene word cloud


Let’s go a bit deeper, shall we?


Our fearfully and wonderfully made bodies are what I like to call a “hip hang out” for all things disease-causing germs and parasites. These germs and parasites love nothing more than to grow and multiply. Germs are everywhere and trust me, just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. Germs are real and they love you. They want to hang out with you. They want to move on in and live inside you. They can be found on your skin, under your nails, around your cuticles, in between your fingers and toes, around your openings like ears, mouth, nostrils, and tear ducts, EVERYWHERE! The BEST way to keep them away (Hey! That rhymes!) is to practice good personal hygiene habits.



Here are a FEW examples of good personal hygiene habits:


  • Washing your body often is a must. If possible, everyone should have a shower or a bath every day. Every day?? Every day… Sweat, dirt and all things funky accumulate on us every day. Daily bathing helps clean off the old dead skin cells and germs. However, there may be times when this is not possible, for example, when someone is bedbound and can’t physically get into the tub or shower daily. Something as simple as washing all over the body with a wet sponge or cloth will do. Something is better than nothing.
  • Brushing your teeth at least once a day. I personally am a HUGE fan of brushing more like three or four times a day, but for some that might not be possible. Brushing the teeth after each meal is the best way of making sure that gum disease and tooth decay are avoided. It is very important to clean teeth after breakfast and immediately before going to bed. Your mouth is a cesspool of ick… Clean it!
  • Washing your hair with shampoo at least once a week.
  • Ready for a BIG one??? Washing your hands with soap after going to the toilet. Pretty self-explanatory, but a big MUST…
  • Washing your hands with soap and warm water before preparing and/or eating food. During normal daily activities, such as working and playing, disease-causing germs will get onto your hands and under your nails. If the germs are not washed off before preparing food or eating, they may get onto the food and thus, into YOU!
  • Changing into clean clothes. Dirty clothes should be washed with laundry soap before wearing them again.
  • Don’t have a dryer? Looking to cut energy costs? Try hanging clothes in the sun to dry. The sun’s rays will kill some disease-causing germs and parasites.
  • Turning away from other people and covering the nose and mouth with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing. If this is not done, droplets of liquid containing germs from the nose and mouth will be spread in the air and other people can breathe them in, or the droplets can get onto food.


how to wash your hands


These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to personal hygiene and the habits we should all take on. If all of this seems too daunting, and all I can get you to take away from this article is one thing…. Then please let it be: HAND WASHING!! Hand washing alone can cut in half your risk for infection and disease. Grab a paper towel, some soap, warm water and go to town. Not sure how long to wash your hands for? Try singing your ABCs while you are scrubbing your hands. When the song is done, rinse! Don’t take shortcuts and never use cold water.


I hope this article found you in good health, great humor and you are that much closer to better personal hygiene habits than you were before reading it.


Check back often, as I will keep you updated with the latest news, educational topics and community programs for Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha.


As always, if you have questions, concerns, or just want to see how our day is going, feel free to give us a call! We always have time for family….. 262-554-8800


In Health,

Nurse Rachel Racine

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