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Health Tips for Parents

2008 Issues

How Can I Teach My Child Good Hygiene?


Good hygiene contributes not only to better health for your child but also to his or her self-image and confidence. Parents can do their part to help ensure that their children develop and maintain good hygiene habits.

Wash those hands!

Good hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of germs, including those that Fall 2008 Health Tips for Parents article on teaching good hygienecause common colds and even stomachaches, says Heide Woo, M.D., a pediatrician at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. These germs are easily spread by touching contaminated surfaces or from coughs and sneezes, and then touching eyes, nose or mouth. “Gastrointestinal disorders, such as diarrhea, are often spread among children,” Dr. Woo says. “But this can be prevented by handwashing.” Dr. Woo recognizes that some children resist washing their hands, or may need constant reminders. But parents can help by demonstrating a routine, washing hands together with their child several times a day, she says. Many bar and liquid soaps are available that are geared toward children and may help encourage a reluctant child. In the absence of a sink, soap and warm running water, a squirt of liquid hand sanitizer can be an acceptable substitute.

There is, believe it or not, a right way and a wrong way to wash hands. Parents can set an example for the proper way to wash hands: Use warm water, lather well and scrub between the fingers and under the nails. Because germs are easily trapped under long fingernails, Dr. Woo recommends that a child's nails be kept short with regular clippings. “To be effective, hands should be washed for at least 15 seconds,” Dr. Woo says. Parents can make a game out of it by picking a short song (such as “Happy Birthday”) to last for the duration of their session.

Fall 2008 Health Tips for Parents article on teaching good hygieneTime to wash hands

Children (and adults!) should wash their hands several times a day, especially:

  • After playing outside
  • After touching animals
  • Before cooking and/or eating
  • After blowing one’s nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After using the bathroom

Hygiene Basics

Bathing - Children sweat more on hot days, making a daily bath and hair wash a necessity. Children need to be adequately protected with sunscreen when they are outdoors, but it should be washed off at the end of the day.

Fall 2008 Health Tips for Parent article on teaching good hygieneFeet - Sweaty feet in closed-toe shoes can lead to athlete’s foot, a common fungal condition resulting from moisture. When possible, children should let their feet air out; flip-flops and sandals are good for this purpose.

Hair - Oil from hair follicles and sweat glands in the scalp can result in greasy looking hair, so children should shampoo regularly.

This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Culver City, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles.

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