Poor Hygiene in Children

Practicing good hygiene means looking, feeling and smelling good. A child may appear unclean for a variety of reasons, ranging from illness to parental neglect. If you are a caregiver, you know that a child with poor hygiene can feel bad about himself and become the target of bullies. Teaching good hygiene can prevent illness and helps a child learn how to take care of himself.


Appearance and odor are signs of hygiene, according to the Teens Health website, an online source sponsored by medical professionals 1. Greasy hair, dirty fingernails and clothes, bad breath and unbrushed teeth are indications of bad personal hygiene 1. Although most children arrive at day care looking sloppy from time to time, continual and extreme dirt and body odor can be signs that the child is not being taught proper hygiene or is even being neglected.

Physical Problems

In some cases, poor hygiene may be caused by a physical or medical problem. Children who have bad breath or dirty teeth could have early signs of gingivitis, or gum disease. Bad breath could indicate cavities or even an abscess. Some children may have overactive sweat glands, which can cause odor. Medicine Online, an online health resource, advises that an infection anywhere on the body can cause an odor problem until it is medically rectified 3.

Poor Living Conditions

A child who lives in a dirty home with no laundry facilities or proper shower area will have a harder time keeping himself clean than other children, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services 2. In some cases, social service agencies will step in and temporarily remove a child. In the best-case scenario, parents will be directed to public agencies that can give them assistance with housing, food and health care.


Children under the age of 5 cannot take care of themselves without the assistance of adult. Pediatricians and public health nurses provide information on routine hygiene for children 1. Young children can be taught the fundamentals of hygiene, starting with bathing, washing hands, brushing teeth and grooming, notes the Loving Your Child website, which offers parenting advice.


A child's self esteem is affected when he has poor hygiene. The main goal for parents, caregivers and teachers is to instill the value of a healthy lifestyle. A child who is clean and presentable feels good about himself and has an easier time making friends.