No doubt, there are many weird actions and decisions we took while growing up and some would just not leave our archives. For boys (maybe girls too), perceiving the odour of our underwear to see if it could still be worn one more time before wash is an unconscious habit we device to accommodate laziness but critically, experts have alarmed that it is also a narrow path to infection.
When infection ravages the body, more often than not, the instinctive diagnosis of a layman points at ‘toilet disease’, more so if the infection is genitally related.
But medically, experts have shrugged off claims of any term called ‘toilet disease’, as Dr Taiwo Aderemi, Medical Director at Safeway Hospital, Challenge, Ibadan, Oyo State puts it. “In medicine, we don’t call it toilet disease, poorly maintained toilet may be caused by a disease we call genital tract infection or genitourinary tract infection. If toilet is a suspected source, the layman may call it toilet disease.”
The toilet has been wrongly accused and associated with anything that subjects the genital organs with rashes or unpleasant feelings and rightly so, Dr Aderemi explained that the toilet could be a very dangerous place when its hygiene is questionable.
“If a toilet is not well taken care of and its users are not observant enough, they can have contact with a lot of microorganisms from a dirty toilet and when they are exposed to this, it evades their lower tract and then ascend, thereby destroying organs it meets on the way, right from the organ that is exposed to the toilet directly, in the case of man, the penis and vulva in the case of the woman, the organism would move up into the bladder then the urethra and to the kidney. If care is not taken, it can lead to terrible kidney disease,” he said.
Also, the role of personal hygiene is all the more important in ensuring no one gets hurt or infected either from the toilet or elsewhere.
Our underwear has been the unsuspecting agent of infection unknown to many users. A quick survey in the cause of writing this report on how many times boys and girls wear their underwear before washing, revealed that about 90 per cent of the boys wear their underwear more than once before washing and 95 per cent of girls wash their underwear after one wear.
Untidy or dirty underwear is akin to an unhygienic toilet environment; the effect on the skin and a person’s health could be more damaging than imagined.
“If somebody does not take good care of the underwear; wash it properly, clean it with appropriate detergent, antiseptic, spread it where it would dry well before wearing and then, frequent washing of such things, one could be exposed. You don’t use underwear twice for both male and female. Wear one per day, that’s ideal then, wash it properly with detergents if possible, clean water then add little antiseptic to it and spread to dry so, that’s one. The other is care of the toilet; if you take good care of underwear but you carelessly use a very dirty toilet, there is likelihood of still having this infection. The same way for the toilet if the toilet is clean and the user is dirty, it can still happen,” Dr Aderemi warned.
The effect of good personal hygiene births different genitourinary infection symptoms that experts said might start with itching and then, the person could notice certain tingling sensation in the genitalia. By the time it developed into having painful urination, it could become critical. And when the person starts seeing sore around the genitals, it could be very dangerous and by the time pus starts coming out it would have been extremely serious.
It should be well noted that some school of thoughts are of the opinion that there is a chance that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) could also be contracted on toilet seat, but experts have since debunked such insinuation, saying STDs could only and simply be contracted from a sexually partner.
One unfortunate setback in the quest of maintaining a standard, healthy living, even after imbibing the ‘one wear, one wash’ policy for underwear is still the multiple usage of the toilet.
For majority of Nigerians living in apartments where a toilet is allotted to multiple rooms, staying healthy may be sometimes difficult. And for economic sake also, more than one toilet to a nuclear family could be too much task on people who prioritises fending for their family above other things.
Dr Aderemi further inputted that “by the time more than five people are using a toilet, danger is looming because care may be problematic. Even if they have a roaster for maintenance, it will be difficult for some to comply, thereby creating problem for the entire house. People that have this problem more are the ones living in multipurpose houses, where families live in single room apartment and they have many rooms per building with only one or two toilet facility available and that is dangerous.”
“… The government has a say in terms of ensuring public environmental hygiene. When we were young, there is this group of environmental health workers who go about inspecting houses, check their toilet facilities, check how they care for them, give specification of what each house should have and sanction defaulters. I don’t think we have such nowadays,” he said.