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Are Daily Baths Necessary?

By: Wellness Committee Co-Chair Punita Patel

January 16, 2017

Did you know that children may not need to bathe every day after all? Clearly we need cleanliness to prevent infection and death, especially in the delicate environment of hospitals and surgery centers. But should we be applying the same rules to our healthy children in day-to-day life?

Recent research has shown that “healthy” antibacterial cleaning wipes contain some pretty scary stuff, including pesticides that are not only dangerous to bacteria, but also dangerous to us! They also include an array of chemicals that are considered “asthmagens,” substances that can cause asthma in healthy people.

Other concerns include increasing allergies in kids as their immune systems shift away from fighting infections and instead focus inward. Plus, the FDA found that antibacterial products are no more effective than regular soap and water. But, we all know, there’s quite a profitable industry of advertising the importance of killing all the germs, and we are constantly inundated with the latter message. Has the advertising world made us a Germaphobia society?

A news release from the American Academy of Dermatology (ADA) says that most children only need to bath a few times a week! Children need to learn to fight off bacteria and build stronger immune systems. Therefore, a few germs here and there is actually healthy.

Consider the following suggestions from the ADA about bathing for kids:

  • If a child is aged 6 to 11, only two or three baths a week may be needed, and shampooing is necessary just once or twice a week. Kids of any age with dry or curly hair only need to shampoo once every seven to 10 days.
  • Special circumstances require more bathing: Kids should take a bath and wash their hair when they get dirty, after they've been in an ocean or lake, or when they get sweaty or show signs of body odor.
  • When kids hit puberty, they should start taking a shower every day. It's a good idea for them to shampoo their hair every day or every other day, and to wash their faces twice a day to get rid of dirt and oil. Those with dry or curly hair can continue to shampoo their hair every seven to 10 days after the age of 12.
  • Kids don't usually need to use conditioners since they're designed to help dry and damaged hair. But conditioner -- applied to the body and ends of hair, not the scalp -- can help prevent tangles in kids with long, wavy or curly hair.

In summary, wash your kid if he/she stinks or is visibly dirty, but otherwise we can relax a bit on being clean as a whistle. Wash hands regularly with good old fashioned soap and water and spot clean with a washcloth between baths, and I’m willing to bet everyone will be happier (and healthier).

IMPORTANT NOTE: These are only guidelines and may not apply to all children. Kids with skin conditions, such as eczema, should follow the bathing recommendations of their dermatologist.

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