While summer vacations are a time for fun and play, this is also the period when illnesses abound. Germs thrive and spread due to the heat and humidity leading to ailments like seasonal flu, gastroenteritis, jaundice, typhoid, skin rashes and food poisoning.
The best way to protect your child from these illnesses is by teaching him to follow basic personal hygiene practices. Also, ensure he does not drink unsafe water or consume food prepared in unsanitary conditions.
The website www.healthline.com advises parents to ensure that their children wash their hands regularly, especially before eating food and after going to the toilet. They should also wash hands after touching animals and if they have been around someone who is ill. Most infections, especially colds and gastroenteritis, are caught when kids put their unwashed hands, which have germs on them, into their mouth. Good hand hygiene alone can reduce the rate of kids falling sick by more than 50%.
Quick tip: You can use a homemade handwash. Wet the hands, sprinkle on baking soda and rub around on hands just like you would soap before washing off.
Tackling body odour
Body odour is caused by chemicals in sweat and wearing unwashed clothes, such as underwear and socks.
Quick tip: If you want to avoid chemical deodorants, try lime juice, says homeremediesfor.com. Tell your child to wash, particularly under the arms, with lime juice applied to a damp cloth. Leave it on for 5 minutes and wash off. If you have sensitive skin, dilute the juice before use.
Bathing regularly and wearing clean clothes are a given to maintain good hygiene especially in summer. When puberty arrives, personal hygiene becomes even more important. For a young girl or boy, this means taking more time and care cleaning one's body, especially the sexual organs, says www.encyclopedia.com.
Quick tip: A tip from www.neem-products.com: Boil neem leaves in water and add to the bath water. This will protect the skin from fungal infections and soothe irritated skin. Watch video:
Skin rashes are common in summer due to the heat and increased sweating. They occur when the sweat ducts become blocked and swell, resulting in itching and discomfort. Dress your kids in light clothing in order to reduce the risk of heat rash.
Quick tip: Aloe vera gel has antibacterial properties and is a natural moisturiser. It soothes the skin and treats sunburn. Apply on the hands and legs of your child when he is back from outdoor play.
The skin of teenagers becomes oilier with puberty. Tell your teen to wash his face two to three times a day with water and mild soap and to avoid picking at pimples.
Quick tip: Turmeric has antiseptic and antibacterial properties that enables it to help fight pimples and breakouts. It also reduces oil secretion by the sebaceous glands thereby preventing pimples.
Young children should wash their hair two or three times a week in summer. Washing hair too often can dry out young scalps, making kids more prone to dandruff. As kids enter their tweens and teens, the hormonal effects of puberty take hold, making their hair greasy. Washing their hair with a mild shampoo may be necessary at least every other day.
Quick tip: According to www.thehealthsite.com, gooseberry or amla is a very good cleanser. Mix amla juice in beaten egg and apply it to your child’s scalp and leave it for a while. This will result in a clean scalp and shiny hair. Apply neem paste to the scalp and wash off after a while to get rid of dandruff.
If you do not want to use harsh chemicals on your child’s skin, use a natural alternative for a facewash.
Quick tip: The website naturalbeautytips.co recommends this natural facewash using honey: Raw organic honey contains anti-bacterial properties, enzymes and probiotics. Honey is gentler than soaps and does not strip the skin of its natural oils. Moisten your child’s face with lukewarm water. Take a small amount of honey in your hands and massage it onto the face in small circular motions.
Good dental hygiene is a must to prevent cavities and gum disease. According to parentinghealthybabies.com, your child should brush and floss at least twice a day, if not after every meal. Brushing needs to be done slowly and steadily in a circular manner or up and down manner. For a young child, a gift of his favourite flavour of toothpaste would be a good incentive!
Quick tip: To get rid of smelly breath, ask your child to gargle with one teaspoon baking soda added to half a glass of water.
Nails, ears and nose
The germs that live under your child’s nails can easily transfer to the eyes, nose and mouth. Help your child keep his nails clean. A weekly clipping is a must.
The nose and ears also need to be cleaned every day. Ears produce a wax that should be cleaned with a soft, wet cloth. Tell your child to clean his nose while bathing.
Quick tip: Usually ear wax drops off by itself. When in excess, 2-3 drops of warm ghee or olive oil can be dropped into the ears to soften the wax. Wax is better removed under medical supervision.
Inculcating good hygiene habits in kids is important and the earlier the better. Explain the importance of hygiene in preventing infections to them. And, why sharing water bottles, towels or handkerchiefs is a complete no-no. If they are keen on swimming in the summer months, instruct your kids on pool hygiene. Finally, lead by example. If they see you taking care to wash your hands and brush your teeth, they will follow suit.
The author is a senior journalist and feature writer based in Bengaluru. With inputs from an ayurvedic expert, Anjali Menon.
For more information on natural skin care ingredients for your child, read the following article.