Health Department

Personal hygiene is a routine of personal care that keeps you clean and healthy. It involves regular care of your hair, skin, face, teeth, ears, hangs, nails, and feet.

Why is good hygiene important?

Poor hygiene can lead to:

  • More chance of disease
  • Infections
  • Loss of teeth
  • Loss of friends
  • Poor self-image

Good Hygiene helps you by:

  • Keeping you clean by removing dirt and germs
  • Helping you look and feel your best
  • Making you attractive to others
  • Keeping your body in top condition

Taking Care of Your Skin

The skin helps protect internal organs, regulates body temperature and eliminates wastes by sweating. To keep the skin clean and healthy, you should take a bath or shower often. How often depends on your activities and your type of skin, but most people should bathe or shower every day.

To Bathe Properly and Stay Clean

  • Lather well with soap, paying special attention to skin areas with folds and creases. Dirt and germs build up in areas such as behind the ears, under arms and between fingers and toes.
  • Rinse well to remove all dirt and soap.
  • Dry all areas well to decrease dry chapped skin.
  • Use deodorants or antiperspirants after you bathe. Deodorant kills germs to stop odors. Antiperspirants block sweat glands to reduce wetness. If the one you choose irritates your skin, try others until you find the one that works for your body type.
  • Keep bedding and under garments clean. Rinse washcloths well after use, and hang them and towels to dry. Never share washcloths and towels with others. Change your under garments every day. Change bedding once every one to two weeks.

Taking Care of Special Areas

EarsCotton Swabs
Wash your ears every day, especially behind them where dirt and oil may build up. Never try to clean the inside of ear canal. In fact, never put anything inside yours ears with out supervision. If you have a problem with excessive wax build-up, see your doctor.

Wash your feet every day, and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes. This helps avoid athlete’s foot. Using a little foot powder can help keep them dry. Never try to remove corns and calluses your self. See your doctor. Shoes, which fit properly help, prevent problems. Cut toenails straight across, even with the tips of your toes. Do not cut down into the corners. You can prevent ingrown toenails by not wearing tight shoes or very high heels. Push back cuticles after have washed your feet.

Hands should be washed with soap often during the day, such as on getting out of bed, before meals, handling food, after using the toilet, and before bed. Check out the Handwashing Program.

ShavingElectric Shaver
Wash the area to be shaved (legs, underarms, or face) thoroughly and rinse. Put on shaving lather, cream or special preparation for electric razors. Shave with a sharp razor blade. Never use a dull one. Change blades in electric razors if they become dull or are damaged. Rinse well.

Taking Care of Your Hair

Shampoo your hair regularly at least once a day. For dry hair, less often is usually enough. Oily hair needs to be shampooed more often, every day.

  • Brush hair first to remove snarls, knots, and surface dirt.
  • Wet hair and lather. Rub in shampoo with fingertips, not nails.
  • Rinse thoroughly with warm or cool water. Rinses and conditioners can help remove tangles and make hair more manageable.
  • Brush your hair daily. This cleans and stimulates the scalp. Brush from the roots to the tips to spread nationally oils throughout the hair. However, the old “100 strokes” advice is probably too much and may do more harm to the hair than good. Wash your brushes and combs each time you wash your hair. Use warm or hot water with soap, baking soda or ammonia, and rinse well.
  • Dandruff or a dry, flakey scalp can be helped by daily brushing and regular shampooing (antidandruff shampoos are available). For other problems such as scabs, swelling or redness, see a doctor. If you lose a lot of hair every day (a little is normal), see a doctor. Hair loss may be cased by illness, improper diet, etc. which can be corrected.

Taking Care of Your TeethBaby Brushing Teeth

Plaque, an invisible coating of bacteria, forms on you teeth every day. Sugar in the foods you eat is used by the bacteria to form acid. The acid may cause teeth to decay. If cavities are not treated by a dentist, they will eventually destroy the tooth. If you do not remove the plaque by thorough brushing and flossing, but instead let it build up, the plaque hardens. This hardening plaque is called calculus. Plaque is the major cause of periodontal disease. The gums become inflamed and bleed. Without treatment by a dentist, the infection attacks and destroys the bones that support the teeth and may negatively affect the body systems. Eventually, teeth become loose and may be lost.

There are three basic rules for good tooth care:

  • Brush your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste after every meal and floss at least once a day.
  • Cut down on the amount of sugar and sweets you eat, and how often you eat them.
  • Go to the dentist regularly for check-ups.

Brushing Your TeethToothbrushes and Mouthwash

  • Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles.
  • Brush your teeth as your dentist directs, or as follows:
  • place the brush with the end of the bristles where the teeth and gums meet, angling with the bristles toward the gums.
  • Short, slow, back and forth motions are made without lifting the bristles form the edge of the gum, using a gentle (scrubbing) motion.
  • Clean two or three teeth at a time until all inner (tongue side) and outer surfaces (cheek and lip side) are cleaned.
  • For chewing surfaces, use short scrubbing strokes with the tops of the bristles. Make sure every tooth is cleaned.
  • Brushing your tongue will help freshen your breath, and remove bacteria.
  • It is important to use dental floss to clean the plaque from between the teeth where the toothbrush cannot reach. Because flossing requires special techniques, your dentist or dental hygienist is the best person to show you how to use it.

Rinse your toothbrush well after using it and air-dry; toothbrushes should be replaced every three months. Choose toothpaste with fluoride in it and the American Dental Association seal on the tube. Children under six years of age should use a small, pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Mouthwashes are fine to make your mouth feel fresh but they do not clean you teeth or hide bad breath very long. Some mouthwashes contain fluoride and can help reduce decay when used regularly. For fear of swallowing, children under six years of age should not be using mouthwash. See your dentist every six months for examinations and cleaning, or as often as recommended.

The information is from the PA Department of Health and is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Want to Learn More?

Erie County Courthouse - 140 West Sixth Street, Erie, PA 16501 - (814) 451-6000 - TDD Phone: (814) 451-6237 - Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm
Contact Us - Department Listing