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Head Lice - Dealing With NitsHead Lice - Dealing With Nits

Nits, head lice, kutus, cooties … whatever you want to call them, these little biters are the bane of parents’ lives. Many of us have spent a small fortune trying to find ‘the cure’, and more hours than we can count combing and cajoling, hoping we’ll manage to banish these mites once and for all.

Annoying? Yes! But harmful? Thankfully, no. Head lice (pediculus humanus capitis) don't transmit disease-causing pathogens and the irritation caused by their bites is rarely a serious health concern. Still, we want to get rid of them, or better still, avoid them altogether. But how? While girls are more susceptible than boys to head lice (staring at a small screen side by side certainly doesn’t help), any head with hair is fair game. Unless you stop your child having any head to head contact, you can’t prevent head lice.

But there are a number of things you can do to minimise the likelihood of them getting nits. • If your child has long hair, tie it back or plait it.

How will I know if my child has head lice?

Frequent, intense itching can be a clue, but it's not a reliable indicator because not all infected children get itchy and lots of kids scratch their heads when they don't have nits. Scratching can lead to broken skin and secondary infection, such as swollen glands, so watch for that too. You might find small, red bites behind the ears and on the nape of the neck, or if your eyesight is really sharp, peppery dustlike droppings on your child’s pillow. But the only way you’ll really know your child has lice is by finding one.

What do I do if my child has nits?

There is a range of treatments available, some containing chemicals; others based on natural ingredients such as essential oils. Many come with a nit comb and/ or shower cap. Ask other parents what works for them, and talk to your pharmacist for advice. Let them know if your child has eczema, asthma or a weakened immune system or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Chemical treatments shouldn’t be used to treat or by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or to treat infants under six months. Your other option is to use the ‘wet comb’ method (see magazine page 22). While time-consuming, this method is cheap, chemical-free, and if you follow up as recommended, it’s highly effective.

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Issue: Spring 2017