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EDUCATION

Promoting personal hygiene in schools

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PERSONAL hygiene is the action, habit or practice of keeping oneself clean, especially as a means of maintaining good health. The practice of personal hygiene can also protect the health of others. When children attend school, they move beyond the protected confines of their homes into a new environment.

How to protect these children from the germs and illnesses they are exposed to is one hell of a job. Whether your child is just starting school or resuming classes after vacations, he/she is being exposed to germs in many ways  (while playing, sharing food with friends, mixing closely with other children, etc).

Germs can spread very quickly from child to child when they cough, sneeze or eat contaminated foods. In fact, schools can be a breeding ground for germs. If one fails to teach one’s child proper hygiene, the child will be susceptible to various illnesses like cough, cold, fever, head lice, etc.

Good hygiene is therefore a very important part of education, because it is not only for your child but for the entire family as well. The germs your child picks up at school can easily spread to the rest of the family.

Airing her opinion on the need to inculcate proper hygiene in school children, Irene Igwebueze, a young mother of four said, “most parents always ensure their children wear clean uniforms and carry all the school essentials but basic cleanliness which happens to be the most vital part of education is always neglected.

Hygiene starts with the hands. Hand washing is one of the most important and basic hygiene habits parents should teach their children. It is also an effective way to prevent the spread of germs in schools and homes.

Children should be thought to wash their hands thoroughly before and after eating food; after using the toilet, coughing or sneezing, playing in the school ground etc. Washing of hands with soap and water should become a daily habit with children.

Taking care of the children’s nails is also important, since it is a widely-known fact that finger nails are breeding ground for bacteria. The germs that accumulate under the child’s nails can get easily transferred to his/her mouth, eyes and nose.

This can lead to infections and illnesses in most cases. Parents should ensure that their children’s fingernails are clipped and trimmed every week on regular basis. Teaching them also to cover their noses while coughing or sneezing is not less important.  When your children cough or sneeze without covering their noses and mouths, germs get airborne.

This can be especially dangerous in a classroom where the children are seated at close proximity to each other. To prevent this, children should be encouraged to use handkerchiefs. Tissues work just as well. They should also be thought to throw used tissues in a bin and wash their hands with soap and water afterwards.

For this, there is a need for schools to incorporate hand hygiene education into the curriculum and daily school activities to maximise opportunities for students to develop personal hygiene practices.  Schools have a responsibility to provide appropriate hand hygiene consumables to support the personal hygiene routines of the children. Consumables include: soap, preferably in liquid form via a dispenser, where it can be afforded, a method for hand drying (tissue, towel) alcohol-based hand rub (where deemed appropriate).

Although washing hands with soap and water is the preferred method of hand hygiene, alcohol-based hand sanitisers are  useful adjunct to hand washing and can be provided in classrooms or where running water is not available.

For Mrs Nwadiuba, a nurse, Children are more inclined to fall sick than adults, the reason being that children are in close contact with other children at daycares or schools where germs are easily transmitted. Unfortunately, most children are not as conscious of personal hygiene as they should be and this increases their risk of illness.

There’s more to hygiene than just hand washing.  If you have ever walked into a room full of kids when all the windows are closed, you will understand the need for personal hygiene in children. Young kids may sweat but they don’t start having body odour until they reach puberty. That’s when special sweat glands under the arms and around the genitals roar into full production pouring out sweat which smells.

Parents should make sure their children wash all of their bodies, including under their arms and their genital and anal areas. Parents should also pay special attention to their after bath activities, making sure that their bodies are thoroughly dry before they get dressed; this is to prevent them from developing body odour.

For young children, they need to bathe regularly. No matter how skilled young children are at bathing themselves, it is good for an adult to supervise all bath times. Young children can drown easily in even a small amount of bath water. As a result, parents should always be watching children while they bathe.

Children need fresh clothes every day, even if their used clothes don’t smell. Clean underwear every day is also important. Paying attention to their towels is not less important. Parents should make sure that the kid’s towels are washed regularly.

In a case where a child have already developed body odour, it is good that special attention be given to such child. The parent should always make sure that the child baths every day, thoroughly and regularly too, paying special attention to the groin, armpit and in fact the private parts, and that the body is well dried after bath. Parents should also make sure that such child wears clean clothes every day.

Discourage him/her from wearing the same cloth for more than a day. Sometimes, wet weather and moisture can make clothes smell musty even after they are washed. Dry the clothes under the sun to make clothes smell fresh. It is also good for such a kid to drink plenty water as it helps in eliminating the toxins in the body and reduces the chances of body odor.

For Mr Fredrick Izuakor, a teacher, “Promoting good personal hygiene habits does more than protect children from the threat of germs and disease. It also helps keep them looking and smelling clean and fresh, plus it promotes their general health.

Whenever we talk about personal hygiene for children, people always think of frequent hand washing, but school age children need to learn other ways to prevent the spread of germs. Children should be taught to cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze, and to use handkerchief or tissues as the case may be (rather than their shirt sleeves)

when they need to wipe their nose or mouth. Children should also be taught that sharing cups and eating utensils, particularly at school, is an easy way to spread germs and become sick, and should therefore avoid such acts.

Inculcating the importance of practicing good hygiene should be a combined effort from parents and teachers. They should explain to them, in simple languages that they will understand that, although germs may not be visibly present, they are still found in air particles.

Helping children to practice good personal hygiene habits becomes even more important as they grow older and approach puberty. Being able to talk openly and honestly about keeping clean will help parents manage the more difficult personal hygiene issues that are likely to come up when they are teenagers. Good personal hygiene also boosts confidence by dealing with problems like bad breath or body odour.

Dental hygiene is also an important part of personal hygiene. Parents need to teach young children the importance of brushing their teeth at least twice a day (in the morning and before bed time).

If the children see the adults at homes brushing their teeth regularly, it will be a better way to teach them appropriate dental self-care behavior. In other words, kids are more likely to regularly brush their teeth if they see Mom and Dad or other adults at home doing these things regularly.

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