By Dr. Tamisha Jones, Medical Director of Pediatrics
The winter months are often synonymous with the cold and flu season. Teaching your children personal hygiene will help them to stay healthy as well as ward off illnesses this time of year. It’s never too early to begin teaching your little ones the importance of good hygiene habits. It is especially important for grade-school aged children to practice good hygiene since they spend so much of their time in close contact with each other in school, a prime spot to share everything from desks to germs. Here are some basic personal hygiene practices to teach your child.
Teaching children how to wash their hands may be the most important health and hygiene habit of all. Moms and dads can teach by example during infancy by wiping a baby’s hands with a warm washcloth before meals, after eating and after diaper changes. When they get older, a good rule of thumb is to teach them to wash their hands for as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.
Parents can start brushing their baby’s teeth and gums with a soft toothbrush as soon as the first tooth breaks through the gums. With lots of help from caretakers, children can start to brush their own teeth by the age of three. A good trick to help your little ones brush long enough is to play a two-minute song while they brush or even use a timer. This will teach them how long to brush and helps get them used to the process. Flossing is another important aspect of dental health, but it can be a bit more complicated to learn than brushing, parents may have to continue to assist their kids with flossing until they are old enough to manage it themselves.
Babies can’t bathe themselves but by the age of six, a child should be able to handle this task on their own. Initially, parents should supervise bath time, in order to teach children about washing all the different body parts. Even more, bath time is also a great opportunity to start teaching children about their body parts, give names to their private parts, and talk about ownership of their bodies.
Sneezing and coughing
A sneeze can travel up to 100 miles per hour and can spread thousands of germs into the air. So it is a good idea to get your children into the habit of covering their mouth and nose with a tissue when they sneeze, or into the crook of their arm if they can’t reach a tissue fast enough. Since germs are easily transmitted into the body through the mucous membranes within the eyes, nose and mouth, remind them not to touch their eyes or pick their noses.
It can take some time for children to develop personal hygiene habits. Setting up signs and reminders around the house about brushing teeth or washing hands, can help them to make personal hygiene a lifelong habit.
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