Notice your child scratching at their head often? This could be a sign of head lice. Easily spread through contact with an infected person, this condition is quite common amongst kids of school going age. A head louse is a tiny parasite that thrives in the hair and scalp of a person as they feed off of tiny amounts of blood from the scalp. While they are not dangerous, they are easily spread, annoying and cause discomfort in a child.
“It is quite common to see lice eggs on a child than it is to see the adult lice. The eggs are tiny yellow or cream dots that cling to the hair shaft closest to the scalp. This helps the eggs keep warm till they hatch,” said Dr. Mohamed Rashid, Specialist Paediatrician at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai. “Eggs hatch 1 to 2 weeks after they are laid and are first known as nymphs. Nymphs are the same size as a sesame seed and are greyish in colour. These grow into the adult louse after about 1-2 weeks. The adult louse feed off blood from the scalp and this leads to scratching and irritation.”
For some kids, the irritation from scratching is mild. However, for others it can lead to a bacterial infection.
“In some instances when the lice feed off the blood of the scalp, the resultant, excessive itching can cause a rash on the scalp of the child. Scratching continuously roughly can lead to a bacterial infection where the pus filled wound might ooze. If you notice this on a child, consult a doctor as he or she will prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection,” said Dr. Rashid. “To check if your child has lice, part the hair at the centre and use a fine toothed comb. Using a magnifying glass or flashlight helps. Consult a doctor who will prescribe a medicated shampoo that will help kill the lice infection.”
Dr. Rashid also advises on precautionary methods especially as a lice infection is easily spread.
“In schools, children play at close proximity to each other enabling the easy spread of a lice infection. Speak to the School Nurse regularly to keep tabs on whether there has been an outbreak of lice in the school. Make sure to inform the Nurse in the event your child develops the condition and keep them home from school till the infection is contained,” Dr. Rashid advised. “Make sure to wash bedding and towels once the child has been rid of the infection. Soft toys and the like cannot be washed and must be dry cleaned instead. Soak all items pertaining to the hair such as hair bands in disinfectant before washing it.”
“It is important to raise awareness on these conditions that many people attempt to treat on their own and ultimately may lead to a more serious infection. This is part of Medeor 24×7 Hospital’s on-going commitment to ensuring the highest standards of healthcare in the community,” said Dr. Mohammed Berer, Medical Director at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai.