At about twelve to fourteen years of age you begin to experience certain changes in your body. These changes are signs of puberty. Adolescence follows puberty. Both boys and girls experience different body changes at puberty. It is important that you understand the changes that take place in your body during puberty. It is equally necessary that you know how to take care of yourself and observe good hygiene practices during this period.


Meaning of puberty

Puberty is the short span of time which marks the beginning of sexual maturation. This period differs between boys and girls. Boys generally reach puberty at about the age of fourteen years. Girls reach it at about twelve years of age. There are individual differences. Therefore these periods cannot be the same for everybody.



Adolescence is the period in every person’s life that lies between the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. It is a period of time a person matures and moves from childhood to adulthood. This is a period of life when you prepare to be an adult.



An adolescent is a boy or a girl that is passing through the adolescence period.


Signs of puberty

Boys and girls have different signs and body changes at puberty.


Signs of puberty in boys

  1. Hairs begin to grow on different parts of the body such as the armpit, pubic region, beard around the jaw, and a moustache above the upper lip.
  2. Voice breaks and becomes deeper.
  3. There is change in general body appearance as muscles develop. The boy may need larger and new clothes.
  4. Sex organs develop. Sex gland called testicles produce spermatozoa or sperm.


Signs of puberty in girls

  1. The breasts develop.
  2. The body changes.
  3. Hairs grow on her armpits and pubic region.
  4. Menstruation starts.
  5. There could be skin changes and problem, such as, pimples.


Characteristics that are common to both adolescent boys and girls

  1. Adolescent boys and girls generally:
  2. Try to gain independence from their parents.
  3. Feel hungry easily. They are growing fast. They therefore need extra food.
  4. Become self-conscious. They may bother about their appearance. Could start being attracted to the opposite sex.
  5. Have emotional changes. They can be anxious, moody or irritable. Could show concern about their future.



Menstruation is the monthly flow of blood from the womb, through the vagina which occurs in every woman of child-bearing age. This period is called menstrual period. It takes place after about every 25-30 days. This time, (the number of days before the next period) is called menstrual cycle. The menstrual period and cycle differ from one person to another. As soon as a girl starts menstruating she becomes a woman. She can then become pregnant and have a baby, if she has sexual relationship with a man.

The blood that flows during menstruation can produce a very bad odour if a person fails to keep her body clean. It is therefore very important to keep your body very clean during menstruation. This is called menstrual hygiene.


Menstrual hygiene

The following hygiene practices are very important during menstruation:

  1. Use good absorbent sanitary pads or towel and pants. These will prevent your clothes from being stained by blood.
  2. Change the sanitary pad as often as three times a day to prevent bad odour.
  3. Wrap the soiled pad in an old newspaper.
  4. Put in a refuse bin or pit toilet or burn it. Do not throw the used pad into the water system or water closet toilet.
  5. Have frequent baths during menstruation. At least bath twice a day. Have local bath of the vulva area each time you change your pad if possible.
  6. Menstruation is not a disease. Therefore carry about your normal activities during your menstrual period. There are different brands of sanitary pad or towel in the market. These include “Ladysept”, “Ladykept”, “Cosy”, “Always” “Simple”, etc. Choose the one that is most suitable to you.


Body Odour

A clean body is expected to be odourless. Body odour is therefore an unpleasant smell that comes from the body.


Causes of bad body odour

  1. Poor hygiene during menstruation.
  2. Accumulation of dirt on the body.
  3. Stale perspiration.
  4. Failure to have bath regularly.
  5. Using of body care products (soaps, creams, perfumes etc.) that smell badly.
  6. Wearing dirty clothes.


Prevention of body odour

Body odour can be prevented by:

  1. Bathing regularly, especially during the menstrual period and after exercises.
  2. Observing good menstrual hygiene practices.
  3. Wearing clean clothes.
  4. Changing your underwear. every day.
  5. Using good perfumes and deodorants sparingly. Avoid heavy perfume.
  6. Not using perfume to cover unpleasant odour.
  7. Applying perfume on clean bodies and clothes.


Importance of personal hygiene

Hygiene means your level of cleanliness. Good personal hygiene is very important for the following reasons:

  1. It helps an individual to cope with such temporary physical conditions as oily skin, and hair, and increased perspiration.
  2. It helps to remove body odour.
  3. It results in better health.
  4. It gives a more attractive appearance.
  5. It gives an individual the confidence needed to be in the company of mates.


Ways of maintaining good personal hygiene

All the seven ways of preventing body odour listed in this chapter are also ways of maintaining good personal hygiene. Other ways are:

  1. Daily brushing of the teeth.
  2. Maintaining clean hair, hands and nails.
  3. Washing hands before eating.


Characteristics of adolescence

Puberty usually occurs a little before the mid-point of adolescence. Therefore, all the signs of puberty already discussed in this chapter are also the characteristics of the adolescence period. The adolescence period varies from:

  1. Family to family because of genetic factors.
  2. One socio-economic group to another because of differences in environmental factors, such as improved nutrition.
  3. One culture to another because of certain cultural beliefs and practices.


Special needs and challenges of adolescence

These challenges are problems which the adolescents often face. The adolescents are neither children nor adults. They often have problems as they relate to their parents and other people. Their challenges include:

1) Adjustment: They have problem adjusting to their physical changes. For instance, the girl has to cope with enlarged breasts and menstruation. The boy copes with changed voice and bigger penis. They are often uncomfortable, clumsy and anxious.


2) Status: They want to behave like adults, yet they are not fully adults. Boys may try to smoke and girls may try putting on make-ups.


3) Independence: Adolescents often want to do things their own way. They do not like to be directed or guided by parents or other adults. This is often a source of problem.


4) Need for achievement: Adolescents want to excel. When they fail, they become unhappy.


5) Peer pressure: They often want to go along with their peers. There could be negative influences from peer group, for instance, in dressing, feeding, and expression of sexuality.


6) Physical needs: These arise as a result of the physical changes going on in the adolescent. These needs include:

  • Balanced food needed for proper development.
  • New clothes to replace outgrown old ones.
  • Girls will need brassiere as their breasts develop.


Needs for parental understanding and support

Parents should:

  1. Understand what their adolescent children are passing through.
  2. Be more tolerant.
  3. Meet the needs of the adolescents within the limits of available family resources.
  4. Communicate freely with adolescents.
  5. Advice and encourage the adolescents.

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