The difference between hygiene and sanitation may seem like semantics, but the two words are not interchangeable. They have different meanings and scopes, although the main goals are alike and equally important. Here is how they differ from each other and why they matter to us.
What Is Hygiene?
Hygiene is the practice of maintain cleanliness for preserving health and preventing the spread of diseases. The word is derived from Greek, which means “an act of health.”
Most of the time, hygiene refers to personal hygiene, which means maintaining cleanliness in your whole body. That includes oral hygiene, feminine hygiene, and more. The most common acts of personal hygiene include washing your hands, taking a bath, and brushing your teeth.
Besides personal hygiene, food hygiene is also crucial. Some common food hygiene practices include cleaning your food, using clean utensils, proper cooking, proper storing, and proper reheating. Similar to personal hygiene, being reckless with food hygiene also increases the risk of spreading disease. Dirty food may contain viruses or bacteria in it. If eaten, these will cause people to get sick.
Terrible hygiene may allow germs to enter our bodies and make us sick. We could also unknowingly spread the germs to other people, causing them to fall ill. Some examples of diseases that could spread easily due to poor hygiene are diarrhea, influenza, hepatitis A, and even COVID-19.
What Is Sanitation?
According to the World Health Organization, sanitation means proper and safe management of human waste, from the toilet, containment, and the entire process up to disposal to the environment. In a broader context, sanitation also includes solid waste, animal waste, and any other kind of biowaste. The goal of sanitation is to keep the environment clean to prevent the spread of disease.
Biowastes produce toxins and allow bacteria to grow. Without proper containment or treatment, they might contaminate the environment, including air, land, and water. Such pollution has a strong link to impaired cognitive function and stunted growth. Moreover, the bacteria may cause many kinds of infectious diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and more.
Hygiene is focused on keeping us clean, while sanitation focuses on what to do with the waste we produce. Hygiene aims to improve the health of an individual human being. If you pay attention to it and practice it consistently on yourself, you will be less likely to get sick. You will also have lower chances of spreading the disease to other people.
Meanwhile, sanitation is focused on the health of all the people in a community. On a smaller scale, adequate home sanitation will protect your family from illness. However, the sanitation quality of a neighborhood is more important. Because even if your house is clean, members of your family can still catch a disease from the surrounding environment.
Although they focus on different things, the main purpose of both hygiene and sanitation is maintaining health and preventing diseases. We need to pay attention to both practices, or we will be at risk of getting ill. The more people care about hygiene and sanitation, the healthier we all will be.