Don’t Use Your Heads, Kids

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Although reliable data on how many people in the United States get head lice each year are not available, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years of age.(Photo: Malcolm Denemark)

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Despite winter being upon us, don't overlook the possibility that your child can get head lice.

According to licedoctors.com, head lice are impervious to the cold weather outside. If you see your child scratching his or her head, regardless of temperature, you will want to check for lice.

Although reliable data on how many people in the United States get head lice each year are not available, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years of age.

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Susan Hammerling (Photo: TIM SHORTT/FLORIDA TODAY)

Lice are contagious and frustrating to get rid of. Fortunately, however, lice do not spread disease, but infection can result from scratching at an itchy scalp.

Many people do not know exactly what head lice or nits (lice eggs) look like.

The louse is a small wingless parasitic insect that can be seen with the naked eye and lives among scalp hairs, feeding on blood on the scalp. Once head lice are found they need to be treated because they can spread quickly and easily.

Lice can be detected early. When nits attach to the hair strands close to the scalp, they look like tan or brown dots. Sometimes the eggs look like dandruff, but they can't be removed by brushing them off.

Nits hatch within 1 to 2 weeks after they're laid, then they attached to the hair shaft. This is when it's easiest to spot them, as the hair is growing longer and the egg shell is moving away from the scalp.

Baby lice are no larger than a sesame seed and are usually gray or tan in color. If head lice is not properly treated, this process repeats itself roughly every three weeks.

Lice are contagious and can spread especially in group settings (like schools, daycare centers, slumber parties or sports activities). They spread mainly through head-to-head contact, but sharing clothing, bed linens, combs, brushes and hats also can pass them along. Rest assured that pets can't catch head lice and pass them on to people or the other way around.

More: Hammerling: Spots that appear as you age are common

Treatment

Your doctor can recommend a medicated shampoo, cream rinse or lotion to kill the lice. These may be over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications, depending on what treatments have already been tried. Medicated lice treatments usually kill the lice, but it may take a few days for the itching to stop. For very resistant lice, an oral medication might be prescribed.

Make sure that the medicine is safe for your child's age. While over-the-counter shampoos are safe for kids as young as 2 months, other medicines are only safe for kids 2 years and older.

It's important to follow the directions exactly because these products are insecticides. Applying too much medication — or using it too often — can increase the risk of harm.

Treatment may may not work if the medication is not used correctly or if the lice are resistant to it.

After treatment, your doctor may suggest combing out the nits with a fine-tooth comb and also may recommend repeating treatment in seven to 10 days to kill any newly hatched nits. If your child is 2 months old or younger, you should not use medicated lice treatments. You'll need to remove the nits and lice by hand.

The following suggestions can help get rid of the lice and their eggs, and or prevent a further lice reinfestation:  

* All bed linens and clothing that have been used by someone in your home with lice need to be washed in very hot water.

* Dry clean anything that can't be washed (like stuffed animals). Or put them in airtight bags for at least 3 days.

* Vacuum carpets and any upholstered furniture (in your home or car), then throw away the vacuum cleaner bag.

More: Hammerling: Holiday scents, creams can cause skin issues

* Soak hair-care items like combs, barrettes, hair ties or bands, headbands and brushes in rubbing alcohol or medicated shampoo for 1 hour or throw away.

Some things you should not do:

* Don't use a hairdryer on your child's hair after applying any of the currently available scalp treatments because some contain flammable ingredients. A hair dryer could also cause live lice to blow into the air and spread to others nearby.

* Don't use a conditioner or shampoo/conditioner combination before applying lice medication.

* Don't wash your child's hair for one to two days after using a medicated treatment.

* Don't use sprays or hire a pest control company to try to get rid of the lice, as these treatments can be harmful.

* Don't use the same medication more than three times on one person. If it doesn't seem to be working, your doctor may recommend another medication.

* Don't use more than one head lice medication at a time.

* Don't use essential oils (such as ylang ylang oil or tea tree oil) to treat lice on the scalp. These oils can lead to allergic reactions on the scalp.

* Don't use chemicals such as gasoline or kerosene on the hair. These are highly flammable and should never be used to treat lice on anyone.

Having head lice is not a sign of dirtiness or poor hygiene. It's common and can happen to anyone.

Susan R. Hammerling, PA, MPAS, DFAAPA, works at Florida Dermatology Associates of Suntree.

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Source : https://www.floridatoday.com/story/life/wellness/2018/01/16/hammerling-lice-isnt-seasonal-so-dont-let-your-guard-down/1035407001/

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