Good hygiene is more than just looking neat and clean. Good hygiene practices can reduce the spread of disease. Therefore, they affect the health and well-being of children as well as the people with whom they spend their day. Children seldom stay clean for long. A healthy, young child will feel the need to explore the environment and play with sand, mud, water and paints. Clothes and bodies often get very dirty during the day at school or child care. This is different from "poor hygiene" which generally means that children are not bathed, always messy looking, and have behaviors that spread disease.
Often young children ignore or tease children who don't smell too good or who look dirty. When children start the day with clean hair, body and clothes, playmates and caregivers respond more positively. This affects a child's self-esteem, so it's important to spend time practicing and teaching good hygiene with young children whether at home or in child care. The best way children learn to assume positive health habits is by including them in their daily routine. Until children can do this, adults who care for them must take on this task. Here are some things to do for children to help them develop good personal hygiene habits and feel good about themselves.
Regular bathing is important. A bath allows a child's entire body to be examined for signs of injury, rash or sores. How often a child should be bathed depends on their activities, the temperature of their environment, and the condition of their skin, Daily sponge/tub baths and hair combing before bed can be enjoyable times to spend with the child, especially if they are part of a routine.
Good handwashing, practiced frequently, can reduce illness and remove dirt which may contain germs. Young children will need your guidance (and often your friendly reminders!) to wash their hands before they eat, after they toilet, play outdoors or handle animals. Set up your handwashing sink with a step stool so children can start doing it themselves. Liquid soap and paper towels can be helpful.
Nose blowing, coughing and sneezing
These are ways germs can be spread. Children can be taught to blow their noses (always with their mouth open), dispose of the tissue and then wash their hands. They can also be taught to sneeze or cough into tissue or into their sleeves. Keep plenty of tissues on hand, and discourage nose picking.
Hair which is clean and brushed makes for a neat appearance, as well as making it easier to detect scalp rashes. Early detection allows for early treatment and reduces the chance of disease spreading to other children. Again, frequency of washing should be dictated by activities during the day and temperature of the environment. With active children on hot days, it is not unreasonable to wash childrens’ hair daily.
Dirt and germs love to hide under fingernails. Children pick their noses, scratch rashes, and put their hands in their mouths. Keeping your child's nails clipped and clean reduces the spread of germs to others.
Your children’s dental care is a matter of preventing future problems as well as good hygiene. Though baby teeth fall out and are replaced by adult teeth, it is important that they be retained for the proper time and not prematurely lost. Early loss of baby teeth can effect the development of the adult teeth as well as alteration of facial structures, speech and eating ability. First teeth need regular brushing and flossing in order to remove plaque, a sticky substance composed of bacteria and excess food. It is highly recommended that you consult with a dentist in your childrens’ early years to initiate a dental care program suited to them.
If your child has a favorite toy that gets circulated around constantly, it may be full of germs from many sources. Cloth toys should be laundered regularly; plastic toys should be run through the dishwasher or dipped in a bleach solution daily. (Note: 1 tbsp of bleach in 1 quart water for bleach solution.)
Clothes should be clean, comfortable and right for the weather. They don't have to be expensive! Coming to school clean helps keep everyone healthier. A healthy child also saves parents time spent at doctor's appointments and missed from work.