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The Importance of Personal Hygiene in Children

by
author image Matthew C. Canaday
Matthew C. Canaday currently works helping children, adolescents and families in individual, group and support therapy. Canaday owned and operated a national printing business for nine years. He holds a Master of Social Work degree from Brigham Young University.
The Importance of Personal Hygiene in Children
A toddler combing his hair in the mirror. Photo Credit Maria Bobrova/iStock/Getty Images

From your preschooler's matted bed-head moments to your teen's not-so-sweet smelling underarms, positive personal hygiene habits are a must for kids of all ages. Your training in personal hygiene can save your child from embarrassing moments and teasing by her peers. Setting a standard for your child to follow provides her with the opportunity to clean up her act, presenting herself in a fresh and healthy light.

Social Significance

Other children tend to tease a child who picks her nose or comes to school with matted hair, dirty clothing or a foul smell. According to Australian psychologist Marion Kostanski, teasing is strongly related to a child’s self-esteem, and our society has a low tolerance for individuals who look and act differently. The psychologist's study suggests a child who does not practice good personal hygiene is placed at risk for injurious teasing by peers. Take the time to teach your child at a young age the basics of good hygiene to avoid unnecessary teasing and taunting by peers.

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Health Significance

Common childhood infections like childhood diarrhea, respiratory illnesses and bacterial skin infections can be averted by simple handwashing with soap before eating and after using the toilet. A study done by researchers from Yamaguchi University School of Medicine in Japan and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proved this in a low-income area of Pakistan, where families could not afford soap. Through donations, they supplied the families with soap and taught them correct hygiene practices. This reduced childhood infections in that region 50 percent. Protect your child from infection. Teach the basics of good hygiene and fight infection in your home.

Prevention/Solution

The personal hygiene habits developed by your child can be taught in a fun way. Make up games to see if your child can remember what steps are needed to accomplish a specific hygiene goal. Use creativity and imagination to help your child maintain an interest in personal hygiene. Charts, graphs, humor, stickers, puppets or songs are some ideas to use to motivate your child. Be careful not to make personal hygiene too much work for your child. Keep it light and fun as your child transitions into owning these habits for a lifetime.

Types

Some suggested categories of hygiene to work on with your child are as follows:
proper toilet usage, how to brush and floss teeth, germ education and why not to put hands in his mouth, the importance of changing socks and underpants daily, the proper use of soap and water and when to wash hands, the importance of caring for bath towels, why not to share a water bottle with a friend, and how to properly use and dispense of a tissue.

Considerations

As your child moves into the teen years her hygiene needs may change. While brushing her teeth, taking a bath and changing her clothes daily may have been enough to get by during early grade school, your teen may need to take on a more complex hygiene routine as puberty sets in. According to the pediatric pros at the KidsHealth website, hormonal changes often result in excess oil on your child's skin and hair as well as a stronger smelling sweat. During the teen years your child may need to shower more often, use a specialized oil-reducing face wash and regularly swipe a deodorant under her arms.

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References

  • Journal of the American Medical Association; Effect of Handwashing on Child Health; July 16, 2004
  • Journal of Child & Family Studies; The Impact of Teasing on Children’s Body Image; Kostanski, M, & Gullone, E. 2007.
  • Science News; Scrubbing Down; Harder, B; 2004
  • KidsHealth: Hygiene Basics
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