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Expert warns of health risk at barber shop

Western star Ray G with a Mohawk hairstyle

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT |  Jessy Lukwago, a university student wears a Mohawk hairstyle, a trendy style where more hair is left at the center of the head with shorter ones on the sides.  

Every month he dashes to a salon to trim his fair and maintain his favourite hairstyle. 

His only consideration when choosing a salon is a barber who can perfectly trim his hair. Lukwago says he goes to any salon that can do a perfect hair cut for him seeking to look good and fresh. 

However, experts, say styles should be the last thing to think about because of the health risks in salons.

Dr. Haruna Nsubuga, a Trichologist at unity skin clinic says complications like bumps, ringworm fungal and bacterial infections can arise from a hair trim at a barbershop. 

This, he says can result from inadequate cleaning of clippers after use. According to Nsubuga, liquid disinfectants like methylated spirit are more reliable than the UV light sterilizer, which is used to kill germs. 

Dr. Nsubuga however discourages the heavy reliance on the machine, saying clients wouldn’t have the knowledge to tell whether the machine is truly functional.

The guidelines issued by Uganda National Bureau of Standards-UNBS require barbers to wash hands thoroughly with water and soap or an antibacterial and dry them thoroughly before moving on to another client. 

The operators are also required to wear clean outer clothing or over-garment when attending to a client.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, the Health Ministry put in place additional guidelines for salons such as wearing face masks and shields for whoever goes into one. 

However, a few months after re-opening the salons most of the barbers have discarded the SOPs. Some of the clients say all their care about is the right haircut.   At a roadside barbershop in Kamwokya, a wash tap is placed at the entrance for clients wishing to wash their hands. However inside the shop, neither the operators, not clients wear masks or face shield as requires by the Health Ministry guidelines.       

While barbers have tried to stick to the hygiene guidelines as stipulated by Uganda National Bureau of Standards, they have blatantly ignored the COVID-19 preventive measures. Abdul Nasser, a barber who has been in business for ten years in Kamyokya explains the process he routinely takes to disinfect his machine to ensure the safety of his clients.

He explains that he first cleans the hair clipper with oil, sprays it with spirit before resting the machine in a sterilizer.       

He also says accidental cuts happen while trimming hair especially using old hair clippers.  According to Abdul, he changes the clippers every two months. Experts advise that the hair clippers should be changed at least every after three months.  

Besides, he also notes that clients that come with bumps usually have them as a result of harsh razors used on their skin. He applies a warm cloth on their scalp and uses an after shave cream to see that they cure them. 

Dr. Nsubuga advises clients to apply after shave creams. His main emphasis however is that clients should pay more attention to every step of the process as prevention is better than cure.



One comment

  1. Some time back the ministry of Health did sensitize the saloon representatives and uniformed services about these issues

    However it looks like the Uganda way takes an upper hand
    No comment on the story
    Other than the visible problems

    Every person may have germs transported in blood (blood borne pathogens) such as HIV,Hepatitis, possibly Ebola (only that it is too dramatic)

    One would have expected the licencing body to pay attention to this threat (just count the number of saloons in every busy center)

    Risk assessment: assuming the last customers carries the germs in his blood, any activity leading to bleeding-shaving manicure, eyebrow tream =trouble [even when you do not see the blood], subsequent clients are exposed!

    Solution: so what items kill germs of that nature
    The alcohol should be 60-70% (possibly isopropyl or Ethyl alcohol) alternate being chlorine (will affect items), or heat (boiling temperature achieved item immersed wait for 20 minutes)

    should have cleaned the item before this use

    do not re use items that cannot be treated

    It all boils to a responsible body sitting down working out the items that can be used , be rendered safe before use on another person

    Then the perception of the saloon operator comes in, after applying oil , does spirit work?

    Any awareness campaigns

    immunization against hepatitis B?

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