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Importance of Good Hygiene in Children

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 15 Nov 2019 | comments*Discuss
Hygiene; Hand Washing; Hair Care; Nails;

Parents, caregivers and peers can influence the way in which children approach personal hygiene, which will stay with them for life. Educating children on good hygiene is the best way to avoid the spread of infection and disorders and not just for childhood complaints; teaching the principles of correct hygiene at an early age can help keep individuals healthy in later life, and be taught to future generations. Principles of hygiene should be made part of everyday life and the best way for parents to teach their children about good hygiene is to lead by example.

The incidence of illness relating to areas of personal hygiene is more apparent in children as they are learning to take care of themselves and are exposed to many germs whilst in the school environment or in a play area.

Important Considerations

Oral Hygiene
It goes without saying that the teaching of good oral hygiene is essential for the young. Their milk teeth are likely to fall out and they must know how to prevent this happening to their adult teeth. Along with brushing technique, the importance of dietary influences should be explained and alternatives to sweets, biscuits and fizzy drinks should be made available.

Hand Washing
Hand-washing is the single most important factor relating to the spread of infection, not just for children but for adults of all ages.

Children should be encouraged to wash their hands before eating, after using the toilet, after handling animals, if they are ill or if they are spending time with a newborn.

Washing is essential to avoid developing threadworms which cause itching around the anus and genitals, and are contracted from poor toilet hygiene or from animals. When a child is ready to go to school or nursery, they are expected to be able to use the toilet themselves and wash their own hands; parents and carers must make sure this is happening or infections and diseases can spread.

Fungal Infections
Athlete’s foot and ringworms are also less likely to spread if correct hand washing is achieved. Children should be taught how to effectively wash their hands, including between the fingers and under the nails; employ the use of a nail brush if needed. Drying properly is also important to prevent fungal infections from becoming worse. Children should understand the importance of these actions also, as well as using an individual towel if they have an infectious complaint.

Nail biting should be discouraged, particularly if the nails are being swallowed. The nails and nail beds offer a perfect environment for germs to live and breed. Nail biting permits the transfer of these bugs to the mouth which can then lead to the digestive tract causing many problems. An incidence of diarrhoea can badly affect a child and they can become quite ill from electrolyte imbalance and dehydration; this can happen very quickly in the young. Even if correct hand washing takes place, there will continue to be some germs under and around the nail, if left they will not normally cause any harm, but transfer to the mouth can induce problems. Keeping nails short will help to reduce the amount of germs under the nail.

Hair Care
A suitable hair length and style such as a bun, is a very easy way of minimising the risk of nits. These creatures are spread by contact so by reducing the amount of hair available to have contact with others will decrease the chance of transmission.Hair does not have to be washed daily as this can induce flaking of the scalp, itching and removal of the natural oils.There is no harm in bathing every day, but it is more sensible to wash the hair every other day, using a frequent use shampoo.

Food Hygiene
Children should be encouraged to wash their hands before meals and snacks, and should be discouraged from eating off the floor; this is especially important if there are pets in the house.

Using cutlery allows the child to learn table manners and will lessen the chance of the transfer of germs from the hands to the mouth.

Teaching the correct principles of hygiene should begin at as early an age as possible. It will help to prevent the spread of infections and diseases that can damage the digestive tract, respiratory tract, and the external features of the body.

Children will follow the example set to them by their carers, so adults should lead by example. Less incidence of illness means fewer absences from school and less time needed to be taken off work.

Maintaining correct hygiene will allow the child to be independent and will lessen the likelihood of bullying if they are kept clean and tidy and do not suffer from associated complaints.

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HygieneExpert - 10-Jun-15 @ 12:53 PM
Hi there my son stays at his father's house every other weekend and I'm growing so concerned about the hygiene, my son has had head lice (so many times I lost count) worms bedbug bites etc, I went into their house and was shocked to find dirty nappies all over the place, rubbish onthe floor dirty clothes all over the floor, no bed sheets on the beds, my son stays there and his father and his patter have two children 3 and 2, I don't know what to do about it as theye can't see a problem, I don't want my son staying therewhat do I do
Worried mother - 8-Jun-15 @ 8:50 PM
@lil187 - It is not unusual for a seven-year-old to have problems in this area, as it is still very new and there is always something more important to be doing that they may have their mind on. The best approach is to be patient, as the more fuss made, the more upset and difficult she will become. Also, make sure she has a bath frequently in order to avoid infection and aromas. Perhaps you could buy her some special toilet paper or wipes - if you do an online search you may be able to find some that are aimed at children that can be for her 'special' use. You could also try small rewards if she gets it right. It might also be worth having a word with her teachers to see if they have noticed a problem. It will take time, but you will get there in the end.
HygieneExpert - 13-Mar-15 @ 11:45 AM
Hi my daughter who is now 7 and yet she doesnt wipe herself proper if at.all sometimes after she poos i am.at the end of my teather ive done reward charts make her clean her pants herself. She did it for.a.week then just stopped i tried everything took advice from otber.parents my family.member have tried talkin to her she knows how to do it and thats its not good for her but.she.doesnt seem to care at all any advice?
lil 187 - 11-Mar-15 @ 5:28 PM
NISAR - 9-Oct-14 @ 11:36 AM
I have been dating a new partner who has a 14 yr old son - his table manners are quite bad !! I have tried to explain to him how offensive his manners come across sometimes to other people at the same table, and how it might effect future girl friends or work colleges and opportunities. Of course I appreciate that I am not his father, and so understand my limitations of influence. But he is quite intellectual, so I was hoping to find some sort of research paper/article that I could leave where he will find, that explains the benefits of good manners, which alsoleads to good health, hygiene, and posture.Any advice ?
Frank - 20-Apr-14 @ 3:59 PM
Teaching these skills from a very early age is vital to instil habits that will last a lifetime. With teeth, for instance, just advising a quick brushing twice a day isn’t enough – they should also be taught to floss regularly (at least daily) and to give long, deep brushings. This will cut down on childhood cavities and keep teeth strong.
Chris - 4-Oct-12 @ 12:22 PM
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