Hygiene Guide Personal Hygiene for Kids: Baths, Hands and Teeth
If your child dreads a dunk in the tub even more than the family cat, bath time at your house is undoubtedly a nightly battle. Yet teaching children good hygiene habits is definitely worth the effort. Aside from keeping up appearances and not offending others, “it’s important for children to learn lifelong habits of good hygiene to keep themselves healthy and prevent the spread of common illnesses,” says Dr. Lynn C. Smitherman, assistant professor of pediatrics at Wayne State University. Here are some key clean issues to watch for as your kids grow.
Make baths fun
Babies usually love bath time but pre-pubescent boys are often a different story. How often your child needs a soak depends on the time of year, the type of skin he has and how dirty he gets. According to Dr. Smitherman, infants need their faces, necks and bottoms washed throughout the day. Children with normal skin who are active can bathe daily, and those with dry skin might choose to bath every one-to-two days. In the summer, especially if children are playing outside, and once puberty starts, baths should be daily.
Add toys and games. Turn on the radio and load up the tub with your child’s favourite toys to make the bath more enticing. “Make it a ritual at certain times during the week,” says Dr. Daniel Neuspiel, associate chairman of pediatrics at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. “Plan something enjoyable after the bath, such as group reading and storytelling.” Bath and hygiene products designed especially for kids, such as soapy bathing mitts or bubble bath, are also usually a big hit.
Shower power. Maybe a bath sounds babyish to your growing child. Instead, you can install a kid-safe showerhead, for ages 3 and up, which is adjustable to your child’s height, has a gentler spray and fun animal shaped showerheads—these are available at many department and larger grocery stores. The idea is that feeling independent and grown-up will encourage him to lather up more often.
Hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of illnesses, says Dr. Smitherman. “Germs from coughing, rubbing the eyes, nose and mouth can be spread to other people by the hands. Hand washing helps decrease the number of germs that can be spread.”
Make it count. Using the proper technique is important when washing hands: first wet the hands thoroughly with warm water, then use enough soap to create a good lather and rub the hands vigorously for 20 seconds. Rinse, dry and turn off the faucet with the towel. To keep kids scrubbing for a sufficient amount of time, use a timer or get them to sing “Happy Birthday” or recite the alphabet, says Dr. Smitherman. Kids should wash their hands frequently: before all meals, after outdoor activities and playing with pets, says Dr. Neuspiel.
Clip away germs. Keeping nails clean and trimmed is important. “Germs hide under nails,” says Dr. Smitherman. “If you scratch your skin with dirty, long nails, you may develop an infection.”
Clean hands on the go. While washing hands with soap and water is best, hand sanitizers are very useful when there is no access to running water, such as in the car, on the playground and in the classroom, says Dr. Smitherman. They’re safe to use for all ages; however younger children may need to be closely supervised so they don’t put their hands in their mouths or rub their eyes before the sanitizer evaporates.
Care for teeth
“All children should be screened by a dentist by age one,” says Dr. Mary J. Hayes, pediatric dentist in private practice in Chicago and spokesperson for the American Dental Association. “About 20 percent of three-year-olds have decay and that started when they were one and two.”
Brush properly. By the time your child is a pre-teen, she should be brushing three times a day. “Kids are now eating smaller meals, more often. This means they have more food sitting on their teeth, which leads to more risk for cavities.” Besides brushing in the morning and before bed, squeeze in a third brush mid-day after the afternoon snack. And anytime your child munches on sugary treats, have him brush within 20 minutes since bacteria can take their toll that quickly.
Lend a hand. “Children under six don’t have the fine motor skills to brush or floss properly,” says Dr. Hayes. “Young children need to be brushed by the parent or at least hand over hand.” The same goes for flossing, which kids under 12 may find hard to manage.
Rinse and spit. To prevent decay, especially if your child is susceptible to cavities, have your child rinse with a fluoridated mouthwash. Just be sure she spits it out rather than swallow it. Click here to get more details on dental