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Poor Hygiene in Children

author image Julie Boehlke
Julie is an avid outdoor enthusiast who loves to camp with friends and family. Julie spends her free time writing, working on her novel and brewing up new recipes of wine—her newest hobby. She enjoys scouring junk shops and antique boutiques in search of rare finds and one of-a-kind treasures. She collects vintage dishes and antiquarian books. Julie spends her days being followed around aimlessly by her most adoring fan—Mushu the pug. She ventures out on weekends to the remote trails and deep north woods of Michigan. Julie also enjoys exploring out of the way nooks and crannies along the great lakes shoreline.
Poor Hygiene in Children
A boy wearing a clean shirt brushing his teeth in the bathroom. Photo Credit: highmountainphotography/iStock/Getty Images

Practicing good hygiene means looking, feeling and smelling good. A child may appear unclean for a variety of reasons, ranging from illness to parental neglect. If you are a caregiver, you know that a child with poor hygiene can feel bad about himself and become the target of bullies. Teaching good hygiene can prevent illness and helps a child learn how to take care of himself.

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Appearance and odor are signs of hygiene, according to the Teens Health website, an online source sponsored by medical professionals. Greasy hair, dirty fingernails and clothes, bad breath and unbrushed teeth are indications of bad personal hygiene. Although most children arrive at day care looking sloppy from time to time, continual and extreme dirt and body odor can be signs that the child is not being taught proper hygiene or is even being neglected.

Physical Problems

In some cases, poor hygiene may be caused by a physical or medical problem. Children who have bad breath or dirty teeth could have early signs of gingivitis, or gum disease. Bad breath could indicate cavities or even an abscess. Some children may have overactive sweat glands, which can cause odor. Medicine Online, an online health resource, advises that an infection anywhere on the body can cause an odor problem until it is medically rectified.

Poor Living Conditions

A child who lives in a dirty home with no laundry facilities or proper shower area will have a harder time keeping himself clean than other children, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services. In some cases, social service agencies will step in and temporarily remove a child. In the best-case scenario, parents will be directed to public agencies that can give them assistance with housing, food and health care.


Children under the age of 5 cannot take care of themselves without the assistance of adult. Pediatricians and public health nurses provide information on routine hygiene for children. Young children can be taught the fundamentals of hygiene, starting with bathing, washing hands, brushing teeth and grooming, notes the Loving Your Child website, which offers parenting advice.


A child's self esteem is affected when he has poor hygiene. The main goal for parents, caregivers and teachers is to instill the value of a healthy lifestyle. A child who is clean and presentable feels good about himself and has an easier time making friends.

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