From paper soaps to hand sanitizers, from liquid soaps to anti-bacterial tissues, there are hundreds of things that we do to keep our hands clean, because we now know the importance of keeping the germs away, especially from our hands. We know that when our hands are clean, we prevent different diseases and stay healthy, for a long period of time.
Ignaz Semmelweis was the first doctor, who discovered that washing hands prevented a lot of diseases and hence it is one of the most important things that people must do. He helped a lot of women and their children survive with a simple formula – keeping the hands clean. Right before operating the patients, he believed in washing his hands with chlorinated lime water, so that he gets rid of the stinking smell from his hands, since he knew less about germs.
When he joined his new job in the maternity clinic at the General Hospital in Vienna, he started collecting data of his own and wanted to figure out why so many women in maternity wards were dying.
Semmelweis statue at the University of Tehran © MohammadJV98
During his time, a lot of mothers died from puerperal fever, which is also known as the child-bed fever. There was no peculiar reason found by anybody else and hence, he dropped into the picture to find out about the same. After doing a lot of research, he found out that all they had to do was keep their hands clean to survive and prevent the fever from happening to them.
Since the discovery happened back in the year 1846, he was not taken seriously. Doctors were upset because Semmelweis made it look like they were responsible for death of women. Semmelweis publicly opposed people who disagreed with him and made some enemies. Doctors gave up the chlorine hand-washing, and Semmelweis lost his job.
In fact, the most shocking thing is that people believed that he was mad. Over the years, he got angrier and developed mental condition and later thrown into a mental institution where he was probably beaten and eventually died of sepsis.
The worst thing is that even at present, it is quite difficult to tell the healthcare providers about the importance of hand washing.