Good Hygiene for Children
Good hygiene is more than just looking neat and clean— it can also reduce the spread of disease. Therefore, good hygiene affects the health and well-being of children as well as the people with whom they spend their day.
Children seldom stay clean for long. Healthy young children will explore their environment and play with sand, mud, water and paints. Their clothes and bodies often get very dirty during the day at school or child care. This is different from “poor hygiene,” which generally means that children are not bathed, always look messy, and have behaviors that spread disease. When the children who attend a child care program arrive for the day clean, it helps keep everyone healthier.
Young children may ignore or tease children who smell bad or look dirty, which can affect their self-esteem. When children start the day with clean hair, body and clothes, playmates and caregivers respond more positively.
It’s important to spend time with young children practicing and teaching good hygiene both in child care and at home. The best way children learn to assume positive health habits is by including them in their daily routine. Until children can do this, adults who care for them must take on this task. Here are some things to do for children to help them develop good personal hygiene habits and feel good about themselves.
Handwashing Good handwashing, practiced frequently, can reduce illness and remove dirt which may contain toxins such as lead. Unwashed or improperly washed hands are the primary carriers of infections. Young children need your guidance and reminders to wash their hands before they eat and after they toilet, play outdoors or handle animals. Set up your handwashing sink with a step stool so children can start washing their hands themselves. Use liquid soap and paper towels.
Nose blowing, coughing and sneezing Nose blowing, cough and sneezing spread germs. Children can be taught to blow their noses (always with their mouth open), dispose of the tissue and then wash their hands. They can also be taught to sneeze or cough into tissue or into their elbow. Keep plenty of tissues on hand, and discourage nose picking.
Reprinted with the permission of the California Childcare Health Program.
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