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The Rules of Cleanliness

by Erica Loop

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 56 percent of children ages 5 through 17 missed between one and five days of school due to illness or injury over the course of one academic year. In an effort to keep your little learner in school, and not at home with the flu or a fever, teach her the rules of cleanliness. Additionally, understanding -- and following -- these rules can help your child to maintain not just health, but also good hygiene.

Hand Washing

The CDC notes that proper hand washing is one of the top ways to keep your child from getting sick or transmitting his germs to other kids. This rule of cleanliness is easy to follow, provided that your child follows the proper steps. Your child should always wash his hands before eating, after using the bathroom, after blowing his nose or sneezing and after handling animals. In order to get the most effective cleansing out of hand washing, it's key for your child to wash his hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Following this, your child must thoroughly rinse his hands and completely dry them with a clean paper or cloth towel. If there is no running water available -- such as at a petting zoo at a local community fair -- your child can substitute with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Cleanliess During Colds and the Flu

When your child gets sick, and chances are at some point he will, learning the rules of cleanliness for illness are crucial to stop the spread of germs. Instruct your child to cover her nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, using either a tissue or the bend of his elbow. While it may seem instinctive for him to use his hand, unless he can wash his hands immediately following, this will just provide another way to transmit the germs to almost everything he touches. Additionally, sick kids should try to keep themselves clean by not touching their mouth, eyes or nose while sick. This same practice can also help well children keep from introducing new germs into their systems.

Hair and Body Hygiene

As your child moves towards the tween and teen years, she will begin to notice body changes due to the on-set of puberty. These changes often include oily skin, an oily scalp and body odors. According to the pediatric experts at the Kids Health website, hormonal changes can usher in facial or body acne and greasy hair. The rules of cleanliness, when it comes to kids in the preteen and teen years, include taking regular showers -- using soap and shampoo, showering after exercise or any activity that causes excessive sweat and using deodorant in the underarm area.

Oral Cleanliness and Health

Although keeping his body clean is vital for your child, don't forget about the rules for oral health. Just like maintaining proper hand washing can help to reduce the risks from germs, keeping the mouth area -- including teeth and gums -- clean can help to stop the spread of viruses and bacteria. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website, you should begin cleansing your child's mouth during infancy, gently wiping his gums with a clean cloth. As your child's teeth burst through, begin brushing for him. The rules for dental hygiene, as your child ages and begins to brush for himself, according to the American Dental Association include brushing at least twice a day and flossing to remove food particles and plaque from between teeth.

Household Cleanliess

While making sure that your child washes her hands and body can certainly cut down on the spread of germs, don't forget about the overall cleanliness of your home. According to the CDC, disinfecting surfaces -- such as counters, sinks or doorknobs -- is the only way to truly remove disease-causing germs. Wiping down hard surfaces can help to reduce dust and make your home look tidier, but if you are looking to lower the amount of viruses -- such as the common cold or flu -- and bacteria, you must use a product that is clearly labeled as "disinfectant." That said, disinfectant-type products often include harsh or toxic chemicals that a child should never use. Additionally, take special care in the kitchen to thoroughly clean and disinfect surfaces that you put raw meat, fish, poultry or eggs on. Never reuse a sponge or towel that you use to clean a raw meat-covered surface.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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