The best time to teach a person about the importance of personal hygiene is when they’re young. Why? Because personal hygiene is a habit. A child who grew up brushing twice a day will most likely continue this in adulthood, and a child who didn’t use deodorant by the time they left home they are less likely to start when older. There are also emotional issues that can happen if a child is worried about acne and can increase confidence.
Hence, it’s important to teach young children about the importance of personal hygiene and a create hygiene habits routine that works.
What Is Personal Hygiene?
Simply put, personal hygiene involves the different ways you care for your body. These practices help to keep you and the people around you safe and healthy. Also, a child with good personal hygiene tends to feel better about themselves and stay healthy.
Personal hygiene practices include everyday acts like brushing and bathing to once-in-a-while routines like seeing the dentist.
Why Is Personal Hygiene Important?
Teaching children about hygiene is easier when you start pretty early and do it along with them. Children like to see and copy, so you also have to keep up with these personal hygiene practices. Here are a few important children’s hygiene practices:
- It hinders the spread of harmful germs or infections so your family won’t be ill so regularly.
- They prevent tooth decay and other mouth-related diseases
- It improves positive body image: young children and teenagers with good hygiene practices are more confident about their bodies.
- Overall, it helps to develop a healthy personality – makes them proud of their appearance
Thus, the importance of personal hygiene in children goes beyond medical reasons like the prevention of mouth or body odor, it also reaches the borders of socialization and gives them confidence.
A teenager who has a mouth odor or is generally seen as dirty might be teased for it and avoided because no one wants to put up with a foul odor. The same thing goes for the teen whose hair is always unkempt and who doesn’t wear deodorant or shaves.
Types of Personal Hygiene
Body hygiene showering and bathing. There are two types of children: those who love to bathe and those who loathe bathing. So why is it essential to wash? Because of sweat and bacteria. Millions of sweat glands all over the body and bacteria that are ever-present break down sweat to create a foul-smelling odor. The aim is to make daily bathing and showering the norm, then, as a habit, it is easy to enforce and will continue till after they have left home.
Bath time is often a fun time when your child was a toddler. Then the hustle and bustle of school and clubs can make it become more fraught. At about age 5, your child should be able to wash independently while you are in the room doing other jobs.
Children don’t only sweat when playing organized sports. They spend a lot of the day running around. Bathing helps to get rid of these bacteria and skin irritations. It also helps to keep the body fresh and cool. A dirty body becomes sticky and slimy, which can lead to discomfort for the child perhaps making it harder to sleep.
Things to take note of as you teach your child(ren) about body hygiene:
- Don’t forget about hair washing or shampooing.
- When bathing, they should pay particular attention to the armpits, genitalia, and bottom. Other areas to watch out for include behind the ear, neck, knees, back, and navel, if necessary.
- Wash with soap but do not watch sensitive parts like the vagina with soap – just plain water is okay.
- Use a soft sponge or flannel, and do not sponge too hard.
- Teach them to wipe their butts from front to back and not from back to front. This helps to prevent the spread of bacteria.
- Wear clean clothes and underwear. A simple rule of if it touches your skin it needs to be washed every day.
- No picking or popping of pimples.
When there’s no water like in a camp, cleaning the body with a clean wet cloth is enough.
Oral or dental hygiene is all about the mouth and how well your child cares for it. When it comes to dental hygiene, the key players include a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, a dentist, and of course, the teeth, gums, and tongue.
Good oral hygiene prevents bad breath, tooth decay, gum diseases, cavities, and periodontal disease. Here are a few things to take note of as you teach your child(ren) about oral hygiene:
- Brush at least twice a day. The best time is before they go to bed and right after they wake up.
- Do not brush for 30 minutes after eating.
- Do not rinse with water after brushing as it removes the toothpaste.
- If your child isn’t sure how long they should brush for, it’s two minutes, and you can play teeth brushing song or video for them while they brush.
- Use the right toothpaste (this depends on how old the child is), and don’t forget to change their toothbrush after three months.
- Start flossing between the teeth once the gap between the teeth closes.
- See a dentist regularly.
Unlike most types of personal hygiene which are focused mainly on the child, sickness hygiene primarily involves protecting those around the child from getting sick.
Hygiene tips for children when they are sick:
- For a cold, they should sneeze/cough into their elbows, tissues, or a hanky but never into their palms
- Properly dispose of used tissues and wash hands immediately after
- Wash their hands after sneezing
The importance of washing hands can not be overemphasized, at least not after the COVID-19 pandemic had all of us washing our hands continuously. There was a reduction in flu that year for this reason. The hands are passageways that are constantly in contact with germs, and these germs can get into the body through the eyes, mouth, ears, and nose.
Hence, it’s vital for children to regularly wash their hands after pooing/peeing, playing with a pet, being near a sick person, and before/after eating.
When there’s no water and soap to wash, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will work just fine unless, of course, the hands are visibly soiled with dirt.
Nails are usually a good place for bacteria and dirt to hide. So when nails are well cared for, it decreases the risk of spreading germs into the body.
For babies, caring for their nails is solely your job. Keep their nails short and clean – use a soft sponge or nail brush to clean the nails. Babies might not stay still, hence why you should be extra careful while clipping your baby’s nails. If your baby keeps moving, try clipping their nails when they’re asleep.
For older children and teens, urge them to clip their nails and wash them while bathing regularly.
Menstrual and Genital Hygiene
It’s essential to be clean during menstruation, and young girls must be taught this when their bodies are old enough to start menstruation. Don’t wait till the day of her first menstrual flow; why? Because you don’t know when it’s going to be and you might not even be around, thus it’s crucial she’s ready for day one and can handle it all while you’re absent.
What does good menstrual hygiene entail?
- Know how to wear sanitary products properly.
- Regularly change sanitary products. Pads shouldn’t be worn for more than 8 hours, and tampons are usually for just 4 hours.
- For other sanitary products, stick with the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Properly dispose of sanitary products.
- Wash hands before and after changing sanitary pads or tampons.
Genital hygiene, on the other hand, involves the vagina and the penis. Vaginas are self-cleaning, so there’s no need for your child to wash with soap or any other type of wash that’ll influence the vaginal pH and cause infections. Cleaning with plain water is enough.
However, the vulva can be washed with mild soap, and cleaning once a day is fine. The penis should be washed with soap and water as well. Children whose penis isn’t circumcised shouldn’t pull back the foreskin until it comes naturally in their teens. Pulling back the foreskin before this can cause damage.
Final Thoughts on Personal Hygiene for Children
The topic of poor hygiene is a sensitive one, and when discussing its effects with your children, especially the teens, be prudent. Tell them the facts but be quite sensitive about it.
The best time to introduce your child to good hygiene practices is when they’re young. For example, do not let your toddler bite into a fruit without washing first, and they’ll grow into adults who’re conscious about washing fruits first before eating.
The same thing goes for every other practice – brushing twice a day, bathing, keeping nails short and clean, and even shaving.