For several days I have tried to settle on a topic to write and have had absolutely no luck coming up with one with which I felt comfortable. While this was laying heavily on my thought I got up one morning and, as is my custom, entered the shower and began washing and soaking. The hot water was grand and I basked in complete contentment as it gently cascaded down and pummeled my body. As I applied my favorite body wash for men, using it according to direction, my thought focused on how wonderful it was that I could shower and keep clean but wondered what the negative impact would be of not being able to stay clean and practice good personal hygiene. So there you have it. I decided on using that epiphany moment of insight as my point of departure for this article. I am glad I did. It is a worthwhile topic on which to write. What then is the negative impact of a general lack of personal hygiene and an habitually dirty body, on such person’s general sense of well-being?
Where do we look for answers to this perplexing question? I decided to focus on the plight of street people as the most transparent and meaningful examples of the point I wanted to make. I want it perfectly clear that I do not see any causal relationship suggesting an inability to practice good personal hygiene as the cause of anyone having to live on the streets. But I do suggest it is axiomatic that there is a nexus establishing the need to live on the street, as a primary cause of a person’s inability to practice the requirements of good personal hygiene..
- Problems Encountered From A Lack Of Personal Hygiene: The Effect of A Dirty Body on General Well-Being
Forced to live on the streets or some other place where a person is unable to do what is necessary for good personal hygiene has devastating effects. Here are some of them.
If such a person had employment when this problem arose, it is unlikely that he will be able to stay employed much more than a week or so following his move into the streets. For who among us will look with charity and patience on someone in the work force, perhaps in the cubicle next to us, filling the available air with body odor?
What are the employment prospects if he did not already have a job? After a week or so living on the street his chances of gaining suitable employment are next to nothing and becoming less and less with each passing day.
It would be an exceptional host or hostess sponsoring a dinner party that would invite our street person to attend. Even if a close friend, I suggest that no invitation would be issued and the most that would happen is that food might be inconspicuously offered him as a way of extending charity. In the name of brotherly love, he might even be allowed to take a shower. But how many times would he be able to count on that? He would have exhausted his welcome by the end of the first week, if not before. Again, his lack of cleanliness, dirty clothes, the body odor and bad breath that exist under such circumstances are all road blocks that prevent his inclusion in the social network, if any, that he had before this disaster.
Then, too, there are people who for whatever reason are just plain careless and even unwilling to spend the time needed to be clean. This type of person almost by definition becomes a social misfit and loner. Shy and introverted he would typically spend his time alone shutting out the world and others who might normally be actively engaged in his life in some meaningful way.
Medical and Health Concerns
Finally there are any number of medical and general health conditions contracted when living on the street. Lice in the head and pubic areas acquired from the need to use poorly maintained public restrooms and having to sleep almost literally on the ground every night. Colds and the flu become common place as do a number of other medical conditions requiring treatment.
What Can Be Done To Help?
What are some of the things we must do to remedy or mitigate the effects of these life circumstances that are impairing the general sense of well-being of those encountering this problem?
- Updated vaccinations are needed to protect the public health and wherever possible prevent the outbreak of disease.
- Proper sanitation is a must.
- The construction of low cost public housing to put a roof over the heads of homeless people and get them off the streets.
- Those who have the means to look after themselves but don’t should be required to attend a seminar on how to keep themselves clean and healthy.
- For a person that just won’t maintain personal cleanliness there is very little that we can do for him except to make every attempt to instill in him the need, if necessary by engaging the service of professionals in social work, psychology and other disciplines.
- Those with other disabilities have their local public health Department and a number of social and religious entities on which to draw. The Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels and similar programs are widely available to homeless, elderly and disabled people. Depending upon one’s circumstances, education and counselling on how to properly care for one’s self might be available. The Internet, a good telephone directory and the Public Health Department are good resources for identifying locally available agencies capable of providing help to a person wanting to overcome this problem.
The failure to follow good personal hygiene practices will lead to a variety of personal, social and medical conditions that greatly impact upon a person’s sense of general well-being. They also have the potential to cause problems for the general population if allowed to get out hand. A wise person once wrote the aphorism “cleanliness is next to godliness.” By remembering this it serves as a reminder of our need to practice good personal hygiene.
© Douglas M Midgley, J.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide