My four-year-old has head lice. She has lovely long hair and I’d hate to cut it, but I’m not sure I can get rid of them without doing so. I’m also afraid other kids will tease her and call her dirty. Please help!
Lindsey, Umm Suqeim
Don’t panic. Your lovely Rapunzel doesn’t require a Romanian orphan crop just yet. A bad case of nits is a rite of passage when it comes to small children – up there with thread worms, chicken pox and regular trips to the A&E. ‘It’s certainly common among youngsters,’ explains Dr Kamal Akkach, a specialist physician of internal medicine and pediatrics at the Health Bay Polyclinic in Umm Suqeim. ‘And if there are cases of it at your child’s nursery or daycare centre, keep an eye out for possible symptoms.’
Indications of a lice infestation aren’t difficult to spot if you know what to look for. The little parasites, that feed on human blood, will make your child’s scalp very itchy and can be seen by the naked eye, although, says Dr Akkach, you’re more likely to be able to spot the lice eggs, as the live bugs are pretty nippy critters.
He explains; ‘The lice eggs stick to the root of the hair – and these are what you look for when checking for nits. I should also point out that it doesn’t matter if your child’s hair is washed on a daily basis or once a fortnight. Nits don’t discriminate between clean or dirty locks.’ And, he adds, they don’t jump like fleas either. Instead, they crawl from head to head – which is why young children who play together in close proximity, are more likely to get lice than older kids.
‘The condition is very treatable,’ says Dr Akkach. ‘The first stage is combing the hair thoroughly from root to tip with a very fine nit comb. This dislodges the majority of the eggs and helps get rid of the live bugs. Once that’s done, you can apply an over-the-counter head lice shampoo.’
However, he warns, the shampoos contain fairly strong chemicals and the instructions should be followed to the letter. It might also be helpful to visit your doctor beforehand so they can run through the treatment process with you.
A second treatment could be required if the first comb-through and shampoo doesn’t get rid of all the thirsty little fiends. Dr Akkach advises parents to watch out for the eggs as they are the best indicator. ‘If the nit egg is very close to the scalp, chances are it’s fresh and the lice are still there. If it’s further down the hair, it’s probably an old one – but a second treatment and comb through would still be advisable.’
Dr Kamal Akkach is a specialist physician of internal medicine and pediatrics, double American Board Certified, at the Health Bay Polyclinic in Umm Suqeim, 04 348 7140; www.healthbaypolyclinic.com.