Hygiene Basics for Kids

Hair Affair

Right up there with an aversion to water is the aversion to a comb and brush. Many kids learn to hate having their hair brushed or washed as toddlers, and some do not outgrow it. Daily brushing removes dead hair and skin cells, and distributes oil from the scalp down the hair shaft. Regular daily brushing also keeps hair from getting unruly and tangled.

Culturally, Americans tend to be obsessed with daily hair washing. However, this is excessive and unnecessary for most children. Washing a child's hair too often can lead to dryness, itchy scalp, and hair loss (overwashing strips natural, protective oils from the hair). By teaching your child to brush her hair daily, you will not need to wash it more than once a week.

When you shampoo your child's hair, use mild products that are made specifically for kids. Many products contain detangling agents to help keep the hair shaft smooth, which makes combing and brushing afterward much more tolerable. Kids with extremely curly hair need extra conditioning to prevent breakage. Light oils, like coconut or sweet almond oil, can be applied to dry, extra curly hair once or twice a week to keep it under control. Active kids who are outdoors or who sweat a lot may need to wash their hair more frequently. This is particularly true for kids nearing puberty, when hair has a tendency to be oilier and attract more dirt.

Finally, haircuts and trimming should be done on a regular basis, say every four to six weeks, to help prevent split ends. Even girls with longer hair should have the ends trimmed regularly.

The Facts About Head Lice

Contrary to popular belief, head lice are not caused by poor hygiene. Head lice are spread when kids share things like brushes, combs, and hats. Typical outbreaks of head lice occur in school and at summer camp where these items tend to be shared.

Discourage your kids from sharing combs, brushes, barrettes, headbands, and hats with their friends, and make sure you wash favorite hats as often as you can. Combs and brushes should also be washed in warm soapy water regularly.

Make a point to check your child's head for head lice, which appear as white nits attached to the hair shaft. They may look like dandruff, but they can't be removed by combing or brushing. If you suspect your child has head lice, check in with your pediatrician or local pharmacist, who can recommend over-the-counter treatment options.


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