Good hygiene

Diseases that make you cough and sneeze, like the flu, can spread easily through the community. Find out how good hygiene helps stop diseases spreading.

Respiratory close contact infectious disease

Gabrielle Paringatai (presenter): My whānau is a precious taonga and I’m a strong believer in the saying ‘A healthy whānau is a happy whānau’. However infectious diseases affect a significant amount of our people, especially our tamariki. But if we immunise our tamariki and teach them good hygiene practices such as hand-washing skills and covering coughs or sneezes, these diseases can be prevented.

What are close contact infectious diseases?

Dr Michael Baker (associate professor): Well, close contact infectious diseases would be the commonest infections in New Zealand now and these are infections that are transmitted between people in often quite casual situations like coughing and sneezing for the respiratory ones.

Gabrielle Paringatai: These infections are spread in three ways:

  1. Spread by droplets from coughing and sneezing.
  2. Direct contact with items contaminated by droplets or other secretions.
  3. Direct physical contact with other people.

These infections can be prevented if tamariki are immunised.

Dr Michael Baker: Immunisation is still the best way of preventing our most serious infectious diseases and some of these are also the close contact diseases like some forms of pneumonia and whooping cough or pertussis.

Hand-washing is one of the best ways of controlling the spread of these common infections. Washing your hands thoroughly with hot water and soap kills a lot of bacteria and also viruses.

Gabrielle Paringatai: The correct way to wash your hands is shown in these simple steps.

  1. Wet your hands under clean and running water.
  2. Put soap on your hands.
  3. Rub your hands together for 20 seconds.
  4. Rinse well.
  5. And dry your hands.

What is the correct way to cover a cough or a sneeze?

‘I usually cough like that [into the shoulder of my top].’

‘I probably use my hand.’

‘It’s probably just like [cough into my hand] even though that’s kind of disease right there but they’ve got like hand sanitiser and stuff now, so it’s all good if you’ve got that in your bag.’

‘Tissue or my hand.’

Dr Michael Baker: The best thing is to cough into your sleeve or your elbow, for example [cough] or [cough] and a lot of the time we are caught out without a tissue and so that’s a good thing to do.

What are the symptoms of chest infections?

Gabrielle Paringatai: The symptoms of common chest infections include the following. If your child has a cough, sore throat, fast breathing, fever, not feeding, drowsy meaning no energy, or vomiting.

Seek medical attention if your child has any of these symptoms. It is important to keep a sick child at home to prevent the spread of infection.

How do we prevent chest infections?

The most effective ways of protecting tamariki from infectious diseases are to:

  • keep sick older children and adults away from our tamariki
  • keeping a sick child away from those who are well
  • hygiene – develop good habits that keep us healthy.

I personally believe that it is important to immunise our tamariki and teach them simple yet effective hygiene practices such as hand-washing techniques, covering coughs or sneezes and keeping sick people away from healthy children.

By putting these common sense practices in place, we will prevent our tamariki from developing serious illnesses. By choosing to immunise our tamariki, we are providing them with the best chance for a long and healthy future.

Remember if you have any concerns about your child’s health, you can call the free Healthline for healthy advice on 0800 611 116, 24 hours a day.

This video was produced by the Ministry of Health together with Health TV.

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