Totally Clean Toddlers
The good news: Your child's immune system becomes stronger after her first birthday and is well developed by the time she starts kindergarten. The bad news: Preschool and playdates mean more exposure to germs.
- Give him a hand. Make clean hands a habit early on and they'll become second nature to your child. Once he's ready to wash them by himself, post fun reminders on the bathroom mirror, such as a cartoon of scrubbing hands under a faucet.
- Teach germ warfare. Show your child how to sneeze into the crook of her elbow and cover her mouth when she coughs to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria. If she needs to blow her nose, make sure she uses a clean tissue every time, throws it away, and washes her hands when she's done.
- Sanitize playthings. Wash your child's hard plastic toys in the top rack of the dishwasher. Tie up machine-washable stuffed animals in a pillow case and run them through a wash cycle. Check labels for drying instructions.
- Take wipes with you. Planning to be at a park that doesn't have soap and water? Alcohol-based gels and wipes are just as effective at cleaning hands. And unlike antibacterial soaps, they kill germs?including viruses?on contact.
- Get him into the tub. Daily baths are a good idea for most toddlers and preschoolers. But avoid overzealous scrubbing, which can damage the skin's protective layer and leave it vulnerable to infection. If your child has sensitive skin or eczema, limit baths to every other day, keep tub time short, and use a mild, nonsoap cleanser.
- Check her work. Although your preschooler may now be ready to start cleaning herself after using the toilet, doing a poor job could give her a bladder infection. Teach your child the right way to wipe?but don't criticize her.
- Be pet safe. Dogs and cats transmit germs through feces, which catch on their fur. Your child could get sick from stroking the fur or getting licked by your pet. Remind family members to wash their hands after petting an animal. Groom your pet regularly. And to keep germs from spreading, don't keep your cat's litter box in the kitchen or clean out your pet's bowl in the kitchen sink.
- Inspect your day-care center. Before choosing a center or preschool, make sure the bathroom has warm running water, soap, and paper towels. Ask the caregiver to describe the hygiene policy.
- Cover up cuts. Since germs can enter the body through an open wound, wash your child's cut, dab it with antibacterial ointment, and protect it with a bandage.
Copyright © 2005. Reprinted with permission from the June 2005 issue of Parents magazine.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.