Head Lice (Pediculosis Capitis)
All around the world, head lice are a problem in schools and kindergartens. Therefore it is inevitable that once or twice a year a number of school children with head lice are found in international schools in Tashkent. Generally, head lice are a harmless nuisance that can be easily treated.
Head lice do not transmit infectious diseases, and there is no need to be concerned that head lice may put your child at risk of contracting more serious diseases.
Head lice management
There is a large amount of conflicting information available to parents and health care practitioners regarding the best way to treat head lice. For parents, this can make a distressing event even more frustrating. There are two effective methods which can be used to kill head lice.
- Wet combing. This method is the approach for detecting and treating head lice which is recommended by local health authorities. This method is suitable for parents who desire a method that does not involve pesticides such as malathion or permethrin. Wet combing is recommended by most state health authorities as an alternative method for tackling the problem of insecticide-resistant head lice. The wet combing technique involves the following method:
1. Wash your child’s hair as you normally do.
2. Apply a large amount of conditioner and leave it in for 30 minutes.
3. Comb your child’s hair with a specialised ‘nit comb’
4. Wash off the conditioner and check for remaining eggs.
5. Repeat twice a week for two weeks, in order to remove any lice emerging from eggs before they can spread.
The success of this method depends entirely on following instructions to the point!
- Pesticides. The use of pesticides like malathion and permethrin can also effectively kill head lice, but their side effects can include a dry and itchy scalp. Meanwhile the smell is not pleasant for children, and the pesticides should not be used for children with eczema. Some studies have shown that up to 64% of head lice are resistant to pesticides, which is why the wet combing method is promoted as the most efficient technique. It is important that permethrin is stored where children cannot access it. Poisoning caused by Permethrin or other ‘louse shampoos’ occurs regularly world-wide.
Other family members should be checked for lice, but preventive treatment of uninfected family members should not be performed.
- Do not shave the child’s head. This leads to the unnecessary stigmatisation of children. Head lice can usually be treated without traumatising the child.
- Head lice do not correlate with personal hygiene or living conditions. The stigma still associated with head lice stems from times when even medical science was influenced by ideologies. In this case, head lice were used to single out certain minorities as culprits. Do not be ashamed if your child has head lice; this happens to children all around the world, and of all social classes.
- If head lice are detected children do not need to stay away from school as long as treatment is immediately applied.