Childhood Diseases

Question
Posted by: IVDN | 2012-01-30

Q.

Head Lice

Good morning
We visited friends over the weekend and her girl of 4 years has head lice (the mom didn''t tell me until we arrived there). Can you please advise what can I use as a precautionary measure for my 2 year old daughter hair (she just turned 2 years). Many thanks

Expert's Reply

A.

Paediatrician

You do not mention whether their child has been treated for headline yet.I would not like to advise that you wash your daughter's hair with a special lice treatment shampoo without being sure that your daughter has indeed got headlice.Examine your daughter's hair carefully for the telltale small white lice eggs.If they do appear ask your pharmacist for advice.

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user comments

C.

Posted by: Mom | 2012-01-30

Description
Lice are barely visible, wingless insects between 1 and 3 mm in size that lives on human beings and feed on blood. These parasites seldom cause serious medical problems, but are annoying and very contagious, spreading easily from person to person by body contact and shared clothing and other personal items. Every four hours or so, a louse bites into a tiny blood vessel for a meal. Because it injects an anaesthetic, you won’ t feel the initial bite. However, as its saliva gets under your skin, bites begin to itch. Intense scratching often breaks the skin

Head lice
Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are about the size of a sesame seed, and can easily be seen, although they hide quickly when exposed to light. Their eggs, called nits, are barely visible whitish ovals cemented to hair shafts. Head lice are spread by personal contact and by shared brushes, combs, hats and other personal items. The infestation sometimes extends into the eyebrows, eyelashes, and beard. Head lice are a common scourge of school children of all social strata.

Cause
Contrary to popular belief, contracting lice is not related to poor hygiene –  in fact, head lice are thought to prefer clean hair to dirty hair. However, good hygiene can combat body lice.

Symptoms
Head lice: intense itching on the scalp, especially behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. Children may hardly notice head lice or may have only a vague scalp irritation in the beginning. With advanced infestation, the scalp may become red and inflamed, with swollen glands near the area where the lice are living. Lice live successfully all over the world, wherever people gather in close proximity, for example in schools.

Course
Once you have been infected with adult lice, they will attach their eggs (nits) to hair shafts on various parts of the body. The nits hatch in eight to ten days, producing more lice. Lice can live up to a week on items such as bedding, sleeping bags, clothing and towels.

Diagnosis
Head lice: itching and scratching is the hallmark of this condition. Your doctor will examine the scalp for tiny grey insects, usually at the nape of the neck or back of the head where there is the most hair. The doctor will also look for shiny, small, greyish-white oval-shaped eggs (nits) firmly stuck close to the base of hair shafts. They look like flakes of dandruff that cannot be brushed off.

Treatment
The goal of treatment is to remove all lice and nits. This usually requires repeated efforts, because a few adult lice may escape by hiding in clothing or bedding, and eggs are difficult to kill.

Head lice
The most common treatment for head lice is to kill the adults with an insecticidal shampoo and to clear out the nits with a special fine-toothed comb. To eliminate all lice and successfully prevent re-infection, wash all clothing, towels and bed linen in hot, soapy water, and dry them in a hot dryer. You can also disinfect bedding and other items such as hats and clothing by placing them in a sealed plastic bag for 14 days  the nits will hatch in about a week and die of starvation. Brushes and combs can be disinfected by soaking them in hot, soapy water for 10 minutes.

If you prefer to avoid the use of insecticides, try a " combing only"  technique. Wash the hair with an ordinary shampoo and conditioner and leave wet. With a fine-toothed comb, stroke slowly outward from the roots through one lock of hair at a time. Lice will land on the back of the comb, get caught between the teeth, or fall off. Space at least 30 strokes over the head. Repeat every three days. Because new-born lice do not lay eggs for the first week, all lice should disappear after about two weeks of combing.

Prevention
Prevention of head lice is difficult, especially among children, since lice spread quickly from head to head. To help prevent lice, prevent children from sharing hats, hooded coats, scarves, combs, brushes, pillows, and soft toys. If you discover lice on your child, notify school or day-care authorities immediately, since classmates are likely to be infected. Infected children should be kept home from school until they are treated.

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