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HEALTH HINTS

Watch out for That Head Scratch

"Lice infestation"
By: Patricia AlbisWatch out for That Head Scratch

The school is a breeding ground for common diseases having a large number of intermingling kids of different ages, some of whom may or may not have good personal habits. Knowing how some of the top common schoolchildren’s diseases spread may help you and your child develop preventive measures against infection. Learn about Pediculosiscapitis better known as infestation of head lice, the second most common disease in schoolchildren next to tooth decay.

Contagious crawlers

Louse is singular for lice - (Pediculosis humanus capitis), tiny, wingless ectoparasites of the head. It is identified for:

  • crawling fast on the scalp,
  • feeding on human blood,
  • laying sticky eggs (nits) on the hair shaft,
  • living for 3-4 weeks and hatch eggs 8-9 days,
  • being active during warm months

Signs of lice infestation are tiny red bumps or sores on the scalp, ears, neck, and shoulders. Frequent scratching of the head may cause interrupted sleep leading to poor concentration during class, likewise, intense scratching can cause open wounds, skin irritation or infection.

Anyone can acquire head lice, but it is common to school-aged children who share several of their belongings and play close together. Head lice do not carry diseases, can’t jump nor fly, but it is highly contagious via head-to-head contact. The discomfort and social stigma of this infestation may affect child’s performance. Head lice infestation can spread indirectly through the use of:

  • Hair accessories such as comb, hair clips, etc.
  • Headphones, stuff animals,
  • Hats, scarves
  • Towels, pillows, blankets, bed sheets,
  • Household upholsteries

Treat them all

Head lice is not a sign of poor hygiene or unclean living environment. If your child comes in contact with someone’s infested head, even with frequent showers, infestation is still highly possible. To prevent the spread and re-infestation, examine and treat ALL members of the family if one is suspected with head lice.

  • Regularly wash hair, apply shampoo and wipe hair and body with clean towels. Advise your child not to share hair items such as combs and hats.
  • Remove lice by handpicking or using “suyod.” Apply lubricants like conditioner or oil into the wet hair before fine combing and give extra attention at the back of the head and ears.
  • Some studies suggest the efficacy of plant oils against lice and nits. Try using tea tree, anise, or ylang-ylang oil.
  • Regularly change pillow cases, beddings, and towels. If you can’t wash items with hot water, seal them in plastic bags for 2 weeks. Vacuum couch, carpets, car seats and toys.
  • You may treat head lice with over-the-counter anti-lice products containing Pyrethrin or Permethrin. Carefully follow the instructions. Persistent infestation warrants pediatrician or family doctor consultation.

The possibility of this infestation should not prevent parents from sending their kids to school. If need may be, talk to the school health and nutrition personnel about contingencies on head lice infestation and other top schoolchildren's diseases. A good school would consider planning and training for these common problems.

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