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Could
Your
Child
Have
head
lice?
NITS AND HEAD LICE ARE A GROWING MENACE SUFFERED ESPECIALLY BY
SCHOOL-GOING CHILDREN, AND CAN BE A SOURCE OF EMBARRASSMENT FOR
PARENTS.
HEALTH
INVESTIGATES THIS PROBLEM AND SHEDS SOME PRACTICAL
SOLUTIONS OF GETTING RID OF NITS AND LICE COMPLETELY.
Amanda, a stay home mum living in Sharjah
recently received a call from her six-year-old
daughter Mary’s school nurse that they had
found nits in her hair. “She asked me to come
immediately to collect her. At that moment,
I felt extremely embarrassed. I had not even
really seen a nit or lice; I never had it as a child.
And though I did notice Mary scratching a few
times but never would have imagined it was
this bad!” she laments.
What they are
Consultant and Clinical Professor in the GMC
Hospital Paediatric Department Dr. Imad
Ouda Al Sadoon tells that lice are tiny parasitic
insects that can take up residence in a number
of different places in the body and in fact,
lice have been around for centuries. Head lice
are actually wingless insects that can live for
approximately three weeks. They are grey or
brown in colour and are about two millimetres
long when fully grown. The female lays up to
six eggs a day, which she attaches to the hair
near the scalp. The eggs hatch about eight days
later. The unhatched eggs, which are called
nits, are a yellow-white colour and are often
mistaken for flakes of dry skin or dandruff.
Unlike dandruff, nits stick to the hair and
are difficult to remove. “The most common
symptom is itching and most of the itching
happens behind ears or back of the neck,” he
says while nits look like small white or yellow
brown specks and be firmly attached to the
hair near the scalp and a rash at the nape of the
neck may also develop. “Lice aren’t dangerous
and they don’t spread diseases, but they are
contagious and can spread quickly from
person to person,” he says.
Why It Happens
Lice are equally likely to be found on clean or
dirty hair. Children catch it easily at school
when they have close (head to head) contact
with other children with the same problem.
However, they will not clear up on their own
and should be treated promptly as nits are
highly contagious and spread quite easily.
Contrary to popular belief, head lice cannot
jump, hop or fly; children often get head lice
from close contact when playing together,
whispering, hugging or when they are in close
contact with an infected adult. Head lice may
occur in anyone but are most common in
children aged 4 to 11 because of their close
contact with each other at school. Girls seem
to be more prone to head lice than boys are.
Researchers think this is because girls are more
likely to put their heads together when they are
playing or working. However, head lice cannot
survive for long when away from the scalp and
those found away from the head are usually
dying.
Signs
According to Dr. Al Sadoon, some signs
of head lice include intense scratching and
excoriation of the skin. Head lice infection can
cause an itchy head or neck, or a rash, which
is often worse behind the ears or on the back
of the neck. However, it is possible to have had
head lice for several months before you notice
any itchiness, and some people may not report
itching at all. It is important to check your or
your child’s hair if you have been in contact
with someone with confirmed head lice, in
order that all cases can be treated. Other signs
of head lice infection are nits stuck to the hair
as they grow out or lice droppings, which look
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Oct/Nov 2013