Kids don’t have to bathe ev­ery day

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - Eve Glazier + El­iz­a­beth Ko Ask the Doc­tors

My 10-yearold grand­child gets a bath only three times a week, and some­times it’s only twice a week. Is this nor­mal? I thought that chil­dren should be bathed ev­ery day.

While it’s true that the rit­ual of a child’s nightly bath has fixed it­self into the pop­u­lar cul­ture, the re­al­ity of what’s best is ac­tu­ally some­what dif­fer­ent. Back in the days be­fore in­door plumb­ing and cen­tral heat­ing, bathing was gen­er­ally per­formed weekly in the United States. It was a fam­ily af­fair of­ten per­formed on Saturday night, so that ev­ery­one would be their sweet-smelling best for church on Sun­day.

As tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances gave each house a fur­nace in the base­ment and hot run­ning wa­ter in the bath­room, tak­ing a bath was no longer a la­bo­ri­ous chore. Add in the rev­o­lu­tion wrought by un­der­stand­ing how in­fec­tions are trans­mit­ted, and the link be­tween phys­i­cal clean­li­ness and good health was formed.

How­ever, the zero tol­er­ance of the med­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment doesn’t trans­fer to the home. Ac­cord­ing to guide­lines de­vel­oped by the Amer­i­can Academy of Der­ma­tol­ogy, your grand­child is per­fectly fine with those three or even two baths per week. The rea­son­ing is twofold.

First, un­less he or she is play­ing in mud, crawl­ing through pub­lic sand­boxes or help­ing out with messy tasks, the av­er­age kid just doesn’t get dirty enough to re­quire a bath ev­ery day. The other con­sid­er­a­tion is some­thing known as the skin bar­rier. That’s the protective film of cells and lipids that make up the out­er­most layer of your skin. Some­times called the lipid bar­rier, it’s meant to keep your skin hy­drated by pre­vent­ing wa­ter and elec­trolytes from evap­o­rat­ing.

In chil­dren, the skin bar­rier is not yet fully de­vel­oped. Too much soap and scrub­bing and they run the risk of ir­ri­ta­tion, even in­fec­tion. In ad­di­tion, the skin is home to cer­tain mi­crobes and bac­te­ria that are an im­por­tant part of our im­mune sys­tems. Daily wash­ing di­min­ishes their num­bers.

So how of­ten should your child be bathing?

With ba­bies, three times a week is plenty. What’s im­por­tant is be­ing vig­i­lant about keep­ing the face, neck and di­a­per ar­eas clean and — this is just as im­por­tant — dry. If bath time is some­thing your baby en­joys and you’d like to do it more of­ten, go with just warm wa­ter and no soap.

Chil­dren be­tween the ages of 6 and 11 should bathe at least once or twice a week. If they want to bathe more of­ten, that’s fine. Are they smelly or vis­i­bly dirty? Then they need a bath. Once kids hit pu­berty, der­ma­tol­o­gists say daily bathing is a good idea.

To get off on the right foot with per­sonal hy­giene habits, make the ac­tiv­i­ties fun. This in­cludes teeth brush­ing, hair brush­ing, hand-wash­ing and bathing. Toys, story times, charts with stick­ers or stars — all can turn a daily chore into an en­joy­able mo­ment.

And while daily bathing up un­til ado­les­cence is op­tional, proper hand­wash­ing is not. From the time they’re old enough to un­der­stand, be sure to teach your kids to wash their hands be­fore eat­ing, after us­ing the bath­room, after blow­ing their noses and, of course, when they’re just plain dirty. CRYPTOQUOTE

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