March 15th, 2016
So the summer holidays are over for another year, much to the relief of many distraught parents and even grandparents, and your children have returned to school. However, with the return comes the perennial problems of head lice and threadworms, especially in under 10 year olds.
It is thought that 1 in 3 children in the UK may get head lice some time during the year.
Head lice are whitish grey/brown insects with the ability to change their colour to match hair colour and are the size of a sesame seed when they are fully grown. They can’t fly, jump or swim and are spread by head to head contact. They simply climb from the hair of an infested person to the hair of someone else. All types of hair can be affected and it has nothing to do with how clean it is. They only affect humans so cannot be passed on by animals.
Head lice will often cause a person’s head to itch. The itching isn’t due to the head lice biting the person’s scalp, but rather an allergy to the head lice as they suck blood.
However, not everybody is allergic so your child could have an infestation without you noticing. Even if your child is allergic to them the itching can take up to 3 months to develop.
Although an itchy scalp is the most obvious sign of head lice in your child’s hair, there are many other reasons that your child could be itchy, such as dandruff or eczema. Itching alone does not mean your child has an infestation.
A female head louse lays eggs by cementing them to hairs, often close to the roots where they are kept warm by he scalp. The eggs are pin head size so difficult to see. After 7-10 days the baby head lice hatch, while the empty eggshells/nits remain in place, glued to the hair.
Head lice eat by piercing the scalp using their mouth parts and feeding on blood. They take 9-10 days to become fully grown. A female head louse may start to lay eggs from 9 days after she hatches. To break the cycle they need to be removed within 9 days of hatching.
To confirm an active head lice infestation, a live louse must be caught through a reliable, accurate method such as detection combing. You can wet comb with the following steps;
You should only treat people when a live louse has been detected. All members of the family who have been in close contact with the infected person must be treated. Don’t forget Grandma! Sprays and lotions designed to kill head lice can be used but they need to be applied correctly and thoroughly. Our pharmacist can give you advice on which ones are best to use.
Threadworms are tiny parasitic worms that hatch egges in, and infect, the large intestines of humans. They are the most common type of worm infection in the UK, especially in children under 10.
Threadworms are white and look like small pieces of thread. You may notice them around your child’s bottom or in their stools. They spread by laying eggs around an infected person’s anus, usually at night. The worm excretes mucus that causes itching, Then when the infected person scratches the eggs get stuck under their fingernails. They ca then be transferred to their mouth or onto surfaces and clothes. Other people who touch an infected surface can transfer the eggs to their mouth.
If you or your child has threadworms then everyone in your house will need to be treated because the risk of infestation spreading is high
For most people treatment will involve taking a single dose of mebendazole to kill the worms. Another dose can be taken after 2 weeks if necessary. During treatment, and for 2 weeks afterwards, it is important to regularly vacuum your home and thoroughly wash your kitchen and bathroom on a regular basis.