Gross! Health Problems for Kidsby Martha Scully • August 19, 2009
As children, we all encounter many different germs on a daily basis – man, some of them are gross! Four of the grossest health issues are scabies, ringworm, pinworms, and lice. We've gathered some information to tell you what each one is, how they’re spread, the symptoms to watch for, and how to eliminate them.
Head lice are tiny insects that live in the hair and on the scalp. An egg is attached to the based of a hair strand and goes through its life cycle on the human head; eggs are usually found around ears and nape of neck. These critters are spread from head/hat/pillow/comb/etc to head from one infected person to another. The symptoms are easy to see. Adults are grey-white and the size of a pin-head, while nits are small, yellow ovals that cling to individual hair strands. The head will become itchy if bitten, and children can feel them crawling around in bad cases. Washing the head with a pesticide shampoo is most effective alternatives are olive oil or petroleum jelly to suffocate, or nontoxic lice products. Be sure that you wash all bedding, clothes, hats, etc (anything in contact with the infected head) in hot water. Vacuum rugs and furniture, and put stuffed animals in a sealed bag for 2 weeks to kill them.
Scabies is caused by small mite that burrows into skin and cause severe itching, specifically at night. It tends to occur on the hands, feet, and waist – where skin folds. Scabies are spread by person-to-person contact, or by using an infected person’s belongings; towels, sheets, etc. Watch out – if one person in your family has it, it’s likely that the rest of the family will get it too. If you see your child scratching a lot, or see tunnels in the skin caused by the mite, you should head to the doctor for a diagnosis. Unfortunately, symptoms usually appear weeks after exposure, so you may not be able to pin-point the point of infection. The doctor will be able to prescribe you a medicated lotion to treat the mites. Antihistamines might help to reduce the itching that can last up to 2 weeks after treatment. Also, be sure to wash all clothes and linens in hot water to get rid of the bug there.
Ringworm isn't a worm, but a fungus. It forms as a red, itchy, bump on the skin, and is related to jock itch. It will also be found in skin folds, as fungus grows in warm, moist areas. Ringworm is spread by person-to-person contact, but also in locker rooms, damp towels, gym mats, bathing suits, etc. It can also spread on your body from scratching. A ring-shaped red and itchy rash is the best sign, but it can also look like a regular rash, or just red, scaly, and patchy. The doctor can take a sample of the infected area and examine it to determine what it is. Usually, you can use an OTC antifungal cream, but if it’s stubborn, the doctor may prescribe something. Be sure to wash all towels, sheets, etc to kill the fungus.
Pinworms are worms or parasites that get into the intestines, look like a thread, and are about an inch long. The eggs hatch in the small intestine and the babies move to the large intestine. At night, the female worms lay their eggs on the outside of the anus, so you may find it there, in their underwear, or in their poop. Pinworms are spread by ingesting something that has been in contact with the eggs in feces. They’re very contagious. At night, the symptoms will be intense itching that is gone by the morning. You may also be able to see it, if you want to look. However, if you suspect this is it, go to the doctor. You can use a piece of tape to get a sample and give it to the doctor, who will examine it. If this is what it is, a prescription will be given. At home, you’ll need to wash all bedding, stuffed animals, towels, etc in very hot water every few days, and underwear and pyjamas daily. Clean and vacuum all living areas daily following treatment for a few days to avoid spreading. The entire family may need to be treated at the same time.
As gross as these are, they’re not dangerous, and quite common in children. Keep your eyes out for symptoms and if spotted, get the whole family treated or examined as needed. Meanwhile, keep going about business as usual, and don’t fret when these come around!