How Often Should Your Child Take a Bath? One Expert Explains

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Should they hit the tub or shower every day? “Some parents may feel guilty if they let bath time slide,” says Dr. McKenna, “but it’s not something to worry about."

Babies and very young kids don’t need a daily bath. They simply don’t get that dirty or sweaty. But what about older children, or tweens and teens? Should they hit the tub or shower every day? “Some parents may feel guilty if they let bath time slide,” says Mike McKenna, MD, a pediatrician at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, “but it’s not something to worry about. How often a child bathes or showers really depends on the child — how dirty does he really get? How sweaty?”

Cultural differences also can be a factor. “In America we’re less accepting of natural human aromas than in many other countries,” Dr. McKenna adds. Even so, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has put together some basic bathing guidelines for older kids.

According to the AAD, children ages 6 to 11 should bathe once or twice a week, as well as:

Whenever they’re noticeably grimy (after playing outside in the dirt, for example).

After swimming. “It’s important to wash off pool chemicals or bacteria from a lake or other body of water,” explains Dr. McKenna.

When they get sweaty or smelly. Dr. McKenna notes that kids as young as age 6 can start to have stinky armpits. “Body odor comes from the production of androgens in the body,” he says, “which doesn’t always occur along with the appearance of body hair or other signs of puberty. Even then, a full-on bath every single day probably isn’t necessary. Washing under the arms and in sensitive areas is usually enough”

The AAD also recommends that tweens and teens:

Take a bath or shower every day. In fact, most kids in this age group will want to be clean and odor-free. But if you have child who rebels, it’s not a good idea to shame him into bathing, advises Dr. McKenna. “There are more important issues to deal with, so choose your battles well.”

Wash their face twice a day. Regular soap and water is fine for face washing, says Dr. McKenna, although a child whose skin breaks out frequently may need a special cleanser or acne treatment from the dermatologist.

Bathe or shower after swimming, playing sports, or sweating heavily.

A few other things to keep in mind:

  • The type of soap doesn’t really matter, says Dr. McKenna, but in general, the fewer ingredients (such as scents), the better. “And because of uncertainty about the safety of antibacterial soaps and concerns overuse of them could have over-arching effects in general, it’s probably a good idea not to use those,” he adds.
  • In winter, skin tends to be dryer and therefore itchy or uncomfortable, so supply your child with soft towels, teach her to blot herself dry rather than rub, and have her apply a moisturizing cream while her skin is still a little damp. “This should be a year-round practice for children with naturally dry skin or a condition such as eczema,” says Dr. McKenna.

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