Home Hygiene & Health
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Jan 24th: The 10 year Govt vision on antibiotic resistance includes minimising transmission of infection in communities through better hygiene

The 10 year Govt vision on antibiotic resistance published today  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/antimicrobial-resistance-uk-launches-5-year-action-plan-and-20-year-vision  says “UK will contribute to the global effort through a lower burden of infection including through minimised transmission in communities, NHS, environment etc.” 

In October 2018 IFH published a white paper https://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/review/containing-burden-infectious-diseases-everyones-responsibility-call-integrated-strategythat seeks to address this problem. It explains what needs to be done by health authorities, scientists, the private sector and every one of us to help stem the tide of antibiotic resistance. Preventing infections is a key part of tackling antibiotic resistance because it reduces need for antibiotic prescribing and also reduces spread of resistant strains https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-preventing-infections-and-reducing-amr/health-matters-preventing-infections-and-reducing-antimicrobial-resistance.  This doesn’t just apply to hospitals, it’s just as important in our everyday lives”.

Better hygiene in home and everyday life doesn’t require rocket science but unfortunately people have become confused about hygiene and misled into thinking being too hygienic at home is responsible for the rise in allergies.  “That idea is not just wrong, it’s undermining confidence in hygiene and its key role in preventing infections”.https://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/factsheet/rising-allergies-and-being-clean-some-frequently-asked-q-and

Smarter, ‘targeted’ hygiene and clarity in communication
The important sources of harmful microbes are not places which are ‘dirty’, but contaminated foods, people and pets who carry microbes around with them.  We must stop being obsessed about where harmful germs are “found”, and concentrate on how they spread. Harmful microbes spread on hands, the things people touch, cleaning cloths if we reuse them without being cleaned, and clothing and household linens. We simply need to target our everyday hygiene on those places and at the times when there is significant risk of harmful germs spreading from an infected source. For example, key times to hygienically clean hands are after handling food, using the toilet, coughing, sneezing, handling pets and disposing of waste.   Key times to hygienically clean food contact surfaces is after preparing raw foods such as meat and poultry, or before preparing ready to eat foods such as sandwiches and snacks. We need to look at this as a chain of infection and think in terms of how we break that chain. https://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/e_learning/breaking_the_chain/story_html5.html

We need to stop talking about the ’hygiene hypothesis’ it’s a misnomer. The more likely ways in which we might build and sustain the sort of  interactions with microbes which are vital to our health is by going for natural childbirth, spending more time outdoors, eating more healthily and avoiding antibiotics unless really necessary. There is no good evidence that the extent to which we might, or might not, clean our homes has any impact.

The White Paper provides constructive recommendations and calls to action to authorities, health professionals, scientists and the private sector. It concludes that hygiene behaviour change is unlikely to happen unless we also work to change public perceptions through consistent and responsible messaging and advertising about hygiene and hygiene products.