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7.1 Hygiene Practices

Hygiene measures can support health and prevent disease. Hygiene practices include but are not limited to the care of the skin, hair, nails, oral cavity, and perineal areas. The lack of adequate hygiene practices may lead to various hygiene-related diseases or infections such as lice (body, hair, and pubic), tooth decay, scabies, pinworm infection, ringworm, trachoma, swimmer’s ear, urinary tract infection, gingivitis, and periodontitis. There are many benefits to adequate hygiene, such as preventing infection while preserving mental and physical health. Good hygiene and self-care practices may enhance mood, reduce stress levels, promote a sense of well-being, prevent or limit anxiety, boost an individual’s self-esteem, and positively impact relationships.

7.2 Factors Influencing Personal Hygiene

There are various factors that impact a person’s personal hygiene. Cultural practices, socioeconomic status, developmental level, and personal preferences greatly influence an individual’s hygiene. These factors may differ from person to person. For instance, cultural preferences can greatly impact how a person performs hygiene in terms of products used, frequency, and touch. Socioeconomic status greatly impacts how hygiene is performed by an individual due to financial limitations, product availability, and access to bathrooms or water. Developmental level can impact personal hygiene throughout the life span. Children through older adults will experience changes in their bodies that may impact the skin, mobility, and effectiveness of performing personal hygiene. Personal preferences play a large role in someone’s hygiene practices. Preferences may include timing, frequency, type of products used, use of bathtubs versus showers, nail length, hair length, and hair oiliness. Physical factors, such as a person’s mobility status and health state, can potentially interfere with personal hygiene practices throughout one’s life. Psychological factors, such as confusion, depression, mental health crises, or even stress from a negative self-image can also influence personal hygiene or prevent an individual from taking care of their body. Remembering to remain nonjudgmental when speaking with patients about personal hygiene practices and preferences is important for nurses. Keep in mind that hygiene or lack of hygiene can be indicative of a person’s mental state.

7.3 Assisting with Hygiene and Health Promotion

Prior to assisting with hygiene and health promotion, the nurse must analyze the patient’s preferences, ability to perform or if and how much assistance is needed, and physical and cognitive status. The nurse must also consider the Five Rights of Delegation prior to delegating tasks: right task, right circumstance, right person, right directions and communication, and right supervision and evaluation. Hygiene practices should always include a baseline assessment to check for lesions, infections, secretions, or other impairments or abnormalities. The patient’s privacy and dignity should also be maintained. The patient’s dignity can be preserved by a professional, matter-of-fact attitude. Oral care may include flossing teeth and brushing teeth, gums, tongue, cheeks, and roof of mouth. It may also include denture care and mouth rinses. Careful cleaning is necessary for the eyes, ears, and nose to preserve their sensory functionality. Care may also be needed for contact lenses, eyeglasses, or hearing aids. Hair care will depend greatly on the patient’s preferences and hair type. Nail and foot care should be carefully provided to avoid injury, and nails should be trimmed short to prevent injury or infection. Perineal and vaginal care must be carefully provided to avoid infection or other vaginal and perineal problems. Life span considerations for the older adult include age-related changes that require special focus and nursing strategies. Age-related changes include impaired physical mobility, impaired oral mucous membrane, and the risk for impaired skin integrity. Nurses can promote health through education by ensuring or reinforcing a patient’s knowledge, ability, and skills to carry out hygiene tasks.


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