The importance of hygiene is something that needs to be taught to the kids from a very young age. Apart from washing hands, face, hair etc., they need to be taught to keep their genital areas clean too. This becomes specifically important for kids between the age group of 6 to 11 years, as their private areas begin to develop by this age.
Kids become shy as they go through the growing years. There could be circumstances where you feel that your child isn’t comfortable talking about genital cleaning. It is important to start explaining about overall hygiene and not specifically about genital hygiene. As the explanation becomes valid and comfortable, they’ll understand the necessities of the conversation.
Genital Hygiene for Boys
- The tip of penis – the area beneath the foreskin needs regular cleaning, once it starts moving easily. Do not force foreskin to move away from the tip. It starts moving back with time.
- Teach your kid not to apply soap to wash the area below foreskin. It could irritate the delicate area. He would often see white material, called smegma, under the foreskin. It is body’s natural secretion and it gets washed away while bathing.
- Teach your children to wash their genital area, just like they wash other parts of the body.
- Be on the lookout for groin ringworm or jock itch. Tell your kid about this fungal infection that usually occurs in warm weathers. It is caused if the child wears too tight clothes and the genital area does not get proper ventilation. The symptoms may include redness, blisters, itching etc.
Genital Hygiene for Girls
- Vagina cleans itself, thus you don’t need any extra care beyond washing the external area.
- Inserting any object to clean the vagina could damage the skin. They could also let germs go in and infect the area. So, teach your little girl to handle that area with care.
- Make sure she washes it in a singular front to back motion. This is done to avoid any bacteria entering around the anal area, coming in contact with urethra or vagina.
- Talk to them about menstrual cycles and how they need to take care of their genital area around this period. It is not suggested to clean the area too often while menstruating but it needs to be cleaned at least once a day. Also, proper sanitation pads should be used and changed regularly.
Genital Hygiene for Babies
Until the age that children become old enough to bathe by themselves, we are responsible for their overall cleanliness and hygiene. This, of course, includes genital hygiene.
- While bathing your baby is your choice (especially the age at which you want to start giving them a bucket bath), it is important to clean their genitals with soap and water at least thrice a week.
- In babies, the primary reason for genital infections is germ build-up (rather than exposure to germs). Adequate washing or wiping is hence the best way to keep your baby safe and healthy.
- Make sure you air your baby's bottom adequately (by keeping her diaper free).
- Always use only baby products to clean your baby's genitals. Do not use a harsh or strong soap meant for adults in your bid to keep the genitals extra clean.
- Till your baby grows up, remember that trapped excessive moisture is the number one enemy of their soft skin. So ensure to keep their skin folds - especially those near the genitals - clean, dry and fresh.
- Never use soap inside your baby girl's vagina or your baby boy's foreskin.
- A baby's genitals are exceptionally delicate. So ensure you use the softest bath towels and napkin to clean them.
Importance of Genital Hygiene
While this may be an awkward subject for you to broach it is an important one. Improper genital care can lead to a lot of difficult and painful situations. It is hence important you teach your children how to clean private parts.
- While minor/regular genital infections (such as yeast infections caused by Candida, or bacterial infections caused by Lactobacilli) can be brought under control with appropriate medication, it is still difficult to manage the infection for the duration that it lasts. It can put significant restriction on activity, movement, and can cause embarrassment for your child.
- While most of the above infections are caused by normal/routine bacteria and fungi, it is possible for things to escalate quickly if the infections are not treated in a timely fashion. The reproductive ability of your child may also be affected.
- Genital infections can at times give rise to urinary tract infections too, since they put pressure on your immune system, weakening it and, in turn, making you susceptible to other infections.
- Poor knowledge about genital hygiene contributes to risky sexual behaviour and lifestyle as adults, giving rise to sexually transmitted infections.
Do not underestimate the importance of initiating your children early on in genital hygiene. Till they are young, we are responsible for their overall care. However, between 6 and 11 years of age is the ideal time to teach them the importance of cleaning genitals.
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Make sure your little one understands the importance of keeping his private parts and other parts of the body clean. Well inculcated cleanliness habits in the childhood will stay with him in the long run and keep him away from any kind of skin infection.