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​Hair nits and other children’s nasties

Nits, the common name for head lice, are tiny insects that live on the scalp and lay their eggs around the root of the hair.

They are very contagious, moving easily from person to person where there is head contact – hence the ease of spreading amongst children. However they have neither wings nor knees, so they cannot jump or fly, they can only crawl.

They breed at an amazingly fast rate, with eggs being laid daily in the hair of the unlucky host. They are very small, and very fast moving so can be very hard to spot.

The early signs of the lice having taken up residence are itching and scratching especially around the nape of the neck and behind the ears. What you may then see when looking at your child’s hair and scalp is small, white, oval-shaped eggs attached to the root of the hair, very close to the scalp.

 

Treating nits:

  • Apply a large amount of conditioner to your child’s wet hair rubbing it in to the scalp and along the length of the hair
  • Leave the conditioner on for at least 15 mins, maybe covering with a shower cap whilst waiting – the conditioner suffocates the lice and they let go of the hair shaft
  • Comb the hair thoroughly with a fine-toothed comb, or special lice comb
  • Wipe the comb clean on a tissue frequently
  • Check the tissue for eggs or lice

 

You’ll often be able to see how many lice you’ve combed out of your child’s hair.

Repeated conditioner/wet-combing is very effective at treating head lice and should be repeated every 2-3 days for two weeks, until you reach a stage of seeing no eggs or lice on the entire scalp.

There are also many chemical insecticides shampoos. However, it is worth noting that some strains of head lice are resistant to certain chemical compounds. If you use one of these treatment and notice that the lice are not obviously dead within 30 minutes of treatment, it is likely your child has a resistant strain and you’ll need an alternative treatment option.

Consult with us at the Natural Chemist to discuss the best options T: 1300 882 303 or visit us at www.naturalchemist.com.au to book an e-consult.

 

All affected family members should be treated simultaneously, and make sure you wash bedding, towels and hats in water of at least 60C degrees, soak brushes and combs in disinfectant and then rinse in boiling water and vacuum all carpets and rugs thoroughly.

 

Prevention is better than cure

Making up an essential oil spray to use inside hats and to spray on hair is a great way to prevent lice. Use 5 drops of each: tea tree, eucalyptus, geranium and lavender in 100mls of filtered water. Spray hats and hair daily.

 

Worms

Worms causing issues in people are parasites that live and breed, usually in the intestines. The most common worm in Australian children is the threadworm. Infections of other worms such as roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms is much less common.

Threadworms are very small (approx. 2-13 mm long), white and ‘thread-like’, and they are not at all fussy about who they live with and do not choose their host based on hygiene. They are most common in children, mainly because children will have their hands in their mouths more frequently and are less likely to have washed their hands as often as adults.

The worms spread when someone swallows the eggs. The eggs hatch in side the bowel where they live for a time before passing through the bowel and laying their eggs on the anus, usually over night. These eggs on the skin are often picked up on the fingers and transferred to the mouth, or they fall off on bedding or can become airborne where they then settle on other surfaces, to be picked up at a later stage – the eggs can live for up to 2 weeks.

 

What to look out for

Kids may scratch their bottoms a lot more, be irritable and have some behavioural changes. They may also ask to go to the toilet much more frequently, but not do anything when they get there. It is worth noting that some children don’t have any symptoms at all.

Sometimes the worms can be seen in the faeces, but they need to have a pretty heavy infestation for this to be the case. The best method for a definite diagnosis is the ‘sticky tape’ method. Press some clear sticky tape to skin around the anus first thing in the morning before wiping or washing. Place the tape against clear glass e.g. a specimen container. Take this to your doctor to get them to have it analysed for eggs.

Treatment is easy – a one-off dose of an over-the-counter treatment, given to ALL the family, is usually all that is needed.

You can get these treatments from the Natural Chemist. Visit us at: www.naturalchemist.com.au to order your treatment.

Prevention is about washing hands thoroughly after toileting and before eating. If your child has had worms, wash bedding daily and change underwear a couple of times per day for a few days after treatment. Clean toilet seats and potties frequently and keep your child’s fingernails short.

 

Scabies

A highly contagious infection, picked up through skin-skin contact and therefore easily caught in childcare centres and schools. If someone in your child’s class or childcare group has scabies, it is worth having your child treated before any symptoms show. It can take up to 4-6 weeks after contact for the symptoms to present in someone who has never had scabies before.

The scabies mites can live for up to 2 to 3 days in clothing, bedding, or dust, making it possible to catch scabies from people who share the same infected bed, linens, or towels, as well as the skin-skin contact.

 

Signs and symptoms

Itching is the most common symptom, which can be worse after a bath and at night. This is caused the body’s sensitivity reaction to the mites and it’s eggs and faeces. The infection will start as small itchy ‘bump-like’ rash or small blisters that break when they are scratched. The infected skin may become thick and scaly and the broken blisters will scab.

Common areas of infection are those that come in contact with others frequently, i.e. the hands, lower arms and feet. However, the rash can spread to other areas, and children’s rashes are often much more ‘angry’ looking than those on an adult.

 

Treatment

Scabies infections need to be treated fast. A medicated lotion to kill the mites, provided by your pharmacist or doctor is the best way to go.

Call the Natural Chemist to discuss the best options T: 1300 882 303 or visit us at www.naturalchemist.com.au to book an e-consult for advice and support.

The mites also hate tea tree oil, so a natural option would be a lotion containing a good level of tea tree essential oil. If the itching is causing high levels of discomfort, an antihistamine should provide some relief.

Options are available from the Natural Chemist at www.naturalchemist.com.au.

 

Note – after applying any treatment creams, don’t wash your own hands — scabies mites love the area between the fingers! You may want to apply the medication before your child goes to bed, then wash it off in the morning. The rash and mites should be gone within 24-48 hours.

Treat all members of the household – as mentioned above, scabies is highly contagious. Also, ensure you wash all clothing, bedding, towels, soft toys, thoroughly wipe all surfaces with a tea tree solution or other disinfectant and vacuum all rooms in the house and empty and wash the vacuum cleaner.

Most kids can return to school the day after the treatment is complete.

 

References:

raisingchildren.net.au/articles/lice.html

Frankowski B, 2009, Head Lice, Paediatrics, 123; 5, 1421-22

Taylor-Robinson D, 2012, Deworming drugs for soil-transmitted intestinal worms in children: effect on nutritional indicators, haemoglobin and school performance, The Cochrane Library

Strong M, 2010, Interventions for treating scabies, The Cochrane Library

www.medicinenet.com/scabies/article.htm

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