Everyday infections such as colds, coughs, flu, stomach and skin infections have a major impact on families especially in terms of overall health and emotional wellbeing, money and time. In addition, the far reaching consequence of everyday illness also has an effect on education and the productivity of the nation as a whole.
The study highlighted how low-cost changes to your lifestyle, such as developing proper hand hygiene habits, could save you money while keeping your family healthy. This will ensure your children don’t miss out on any schooling and give you more time to spend on the things you enjoy.
Researchers found there was a high incidence of everyday illness amongst children (0-15) who took part in the study, with 89% suffering most commonly with infections such as respiratory illness, skin infections and diarrhoeal diseases.
According to researchers at Lifebuoy, by adopting simple daily hand wash routines especially at key occasions such as before handling food, after a visit to the bathroom and when in the shower/ bath, you can cut the incidence (and costs) of these everyday and often preventable infections, especially incidence of diarrhoeal disease by almost half2.
The study also found that the majority of all illness episodes resulted in time off school. This means that for every day that your child is home sick; you may also need to take the time off to care for them.
The impact of regularly missing school has far-reaching consequences for a child. Frequent absenteeism may affect the child’s school work and progress as well as their social interaction and development in this area. According to Dr Kelly Gate, 2012 Rural Doctor of the Year recipient from Bethesda hospital in Kwazulu-Natal, “in this way common illness, which affects a child on a regular basis, can also impinge on their long term development.”
In addition frequent school absenteeism not only affects individual study but also disrupts the class if there are enough children missing on a regular basis.
If the caregiver needs to take time off work, this may result in a loss of income (added to the increased medical costs) and impact leave days. Illness in the family also affects the emotional state of the caregiver brought on not only by concern for the child, but also the added stress of trying to maintain other responsibilities.
Loane Sharp, labour economist for Adcorp agrees that absenteeism due to illness has a major impact on the bottom line, “Absenteeism is a major contributing factor to loss in productivity across South African employment, which in turn negatively impacts the economy because of these lost working hours.”
When it comes to protecting your family, prevention is really better than cure. One quarter of mothers interviewed reported that they believe that their children get sick more often, which means they spend more money and time on illness today than they did when they were children. Additionally two thirds of mothers felt powerless to prevent the spread of everyday infections and the majority were concerned that regular illness would influence their child’s school work. They were therefore looking for solutions to ensure their children stayed healthy and had more time at school.
Lifebuoy has identified the highest germ anxiety periods, especially for parents, as being during seasonal changes, back-to-school and occasions when people gather together such as religious festivals. According to climatologist Peter Johnston, “Climate change is causing greater climatic variability and more extreme conditions. The impact on pests and diseases is largely unknown, but it can be expected that new germs and diseases will be favoured by the increased temperatures and more extreme rainfall conditions that will become more prevalent. Healthy routines and lifestyles will become more important to fend off sickness and diseases.”
According to Ashveer Mahabeer, Brand Building Manager: Lifebuoy, “Studies, such as those conducted by LSHTM, suggest that interventions to promote handwashing might save millions of lives and millions of Rands as well. It is therefore imperative to promote healthy hygiene habits such as handwashing with soap especially at key occasions.
Prof Lucille Blumberg from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) agrees that handwashing plays a significant role in the reduction of respiratory and diarrhoeal illnesses. “Washing hands with soap is an easy, effective and inexpensive way to minimise the risk of spreading germs that cause flu, skin and gut infections,” concludes Blumberg.
By incorporating a simple hand-wash routine with soap you are taking an essential step towards being part of the solution. Stay one step ahead of everyday infections by empowering your family with healthy hygiene habits.