What Is the Connection between Hygiene and Sanitation?

Erik J.J. Goserud

Hygiene and sanitation are often confused and forever linked. A person who wishes to talk the talk better be able to indeed walk the walk when it comes to these words. By definition, hygiene is a more all-encompassing term related to the measures taken to ensure well-being and disease prevention. Sanitation is the more specific of the two, highlighting the prevention or treatment of contact with hazardous substances.

A mouth rinse can help kill oral germs.
A mouth rinse can help kill oral germs.

Hygiene usually pertains to a person or individual, whereas sanitation can sometimes outline measures that don't relate to people. The link between hygiene and sanitation is that sanitation is part of the good practice of hygiene. Using hand sanitizer is a good example. If a person touches something extremely high in bacteria or has just used the outhouse, he or she would probably use hand sanitizer, or at least, one would hope.

A woman washing her hands.
A woman washing her hands.

Understanding the situations in which sanitizer is needed is a surefire way to better comprehend what it means to be sanitary. Hygiene can be good, bad, or anywhere in between, and hygiene and sanitation usually are directly related. The more often people sanitize when needed, the better off they are in a hygienic sense.

Hygiene is a very vague term. There are many factors that go into the concept. On a personal level, this may include regular bathing periods or trips to the dentist. It can include sanitation techniques, shaving, or other related ways to keep the body healthy and happy.

Sanitation is more the act of removing or avoiding harmful substances. Sanitary techniques may include wearing gloves or a gown while working near materials that are harmful. It may also refer to immediate cleaning or sterilization of a person or object in the case that they have been exposed. This is one way in which hygiene and sanitation are related but still distinctly different in definition.

Both hygiene and sanitation can help people live better lives if utilized effectively. Many of the diseases that plague developing communities, regions, and countries revolve around the lack of simple preventative techniques. It is a sad but true reality that the simple act of cleaning instruments or washing one's hands can save lives and protect against the threat of disease. For this reason, innovative minds in the health care and development fields are perpetually designing more effective ways to take these simple yet effective measures to places where they are yet to be implemented.

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