Personal Hygiene —taking care of your body

by Liz McKeon, Lecturer in Intellectual Disability Nursing, Dublin City University


Keeping your body clean not only keeps you healthy, but it also makes you feel good about yourself- Looking good does not just mean wearing the latest fashion, it also relates to other important things that will affect your image. In this article we consider those important things that help us feel good and what we can do to help each other.


Nobody likes to be smelly and this can cause you to miss out on fun and friends. We all need to wash regularly—some more than others. Let’s look at some reasons for washing… Washing our hands: We should wash our hands every time we go to the toilet, before we eat and if we have been touching animals or anything dirty. Hand washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick or spreading infections to others. So it is important that you wash your hands properly. Using soap and warm water, remember to scrub your hands very well—washing between your fingers and the back of the hands, along the wrist, and under your fingernails. You should know how to wash your hands properly. Get someone to teach you how to do this perhaps in a group and make it a fun way to learn, at the same time looking after your health.

Having a shower or bath: Having a bath or a shower every day will not only be a good chance to wash away smells or odours that may have gathered on your body during the day, but it is also a great way to unwind, helping you to feel refreshed and ‘feeling good’ about yourself- You may also want to use nice smelling talc or cologne, as long as your skin is not sensitive to any of the products. If you find it difficult to get into a bath or shower on your own, be sure to get your carer to arrange enough time to help you, when you won’t need to rush.

Clothes: We all like to wear nice clothes that make us feel good. But even the latest fashion can get stained and grubby. During the day, clothes—especially your underwear—gathers dead skin cells, sweat or other stains and your clothes can become smelly if not washed regularly. So while you may not want to take that top off because you know you look good in it, just remember people won’t be thinking about how good you look, if there is a strong pong coming from you. So take it off, get it washed and feel good too.

Feet: Our feet can get smelly for different reasons and sometimes this can be hard to solve. Washing your feet at least once a day helps to get rid of smells and using a good foot powder may also help. Always remember to dry between your toes properly as bacteria can grow in wet or damp surfaces. Wear sandals or flip flops when walking around public areas like swimming pools and public showers, so you don’t pick up fungal infections on your feet. Keep your shoes clean and dry to avoid bacteria growing there. Change your shoes as often as you can and let them air when you are not wearing them. If you have any sign of infections between your toes or on your toe nails you should visit your doctor or a chiropodist.

Hair: Keeping your hair clean is important as it can become very greasy and dirty because of the oil produced by hair follicles, as well as sweat and dead skin cells building up on your scalp. So wash your hair regularly with shampoo and rinse it well afterwards. Having your hair washed can be an ideal time to have your head massage (you can do this for yourself, or someone else may do it for you). You should be very careful about your hairbrush too and the risk of getting head lice, especially if you share a brush with anyone else. Head lice can also spread very quickly by sharing hats, or by being close to someone who has them. So always check your hair regularly or get some one to check it for you. Having head lice does not mean you are dirty—they are very common, but you do need to get rid of them.

Teeth: It is very important that you clean your teeth at least twice a day. This reduces the chance of your teeth decaying, getting a toothache, or indeed having to have your teeth removed. Regular cleaning and visits to your dentist are important. is a good idea. Brushing your teeth also helps to avoid unpleasant tastes and smells on your breath.

Toileting hygiene: Remember to wash your hands after going to the toilet. If you use incontinence pads, it is important that you wash your hands after each time you change the pads. If you cannot do this yourself then your carer should ensure that your hands and theirs are washed after each pad is changed. Because you are wearing pads all the time it is important that you wash your bottom and genital area at least once a day to avoid bacteria gathering and any smells lingering on your body. If you are menstruating (having a period) you need to change your pads regularly and you must be careful how you dispose of the used pads. Again regular showering and washing is necessary to prevent unpleasant smells and unwanted stains.

So remember—as Buddha says:
To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.


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