Lice, or louse in plural form, is an insect with the size of a sesame seed and has greyish-white colour. Which is also known as kutu in Malay community. It is hard to be seen with naked eye although close observations would reveal its appearance. There are three types of lice, which depend on the body parts being colonized by them; head lice, body lice and pubic lice. Among these three, children would commonly face the first one. A study that was done among school children in one district in Kelantan suggested a prevalence rate as high as 35%. Usually parents would push the panic button whenever they see small and white objects filling up their children’s scalp and neck. Even though this condition may cause disturbances to your children such as itchiness and the risk of spreading to other members of family and society, the worry can be toned down a notch as it does not bring any serious disease.
Before knowing the tricks to avoid your children from getting this infestation, parents should be well-versed in basic knowledge on lice. Head lice has six legs and it clings on the scalp to feed from tiny amount of blood from it. Louse also produce eggs, which are called nits, that sticks on the tiny strand of hair. The nits eventually would hatch to add to the numbers of the lice. After hatching, it becomes easier to see, thus the obvious white dots that is clearly visible to the parents’ eyes remark that louse are already present. They do not fly or jump, that is why the only mode of spreading for them is through direct person-to-person contact, bed linens, sharing combs and sharing hats with the other children who are already affected. Should your children unfortunately struck with this parasite, they would be found scratching their scalp or neck relentlessly, due to skin’s reaction to the lice saliva. Besides that, small red bumps and sores also can be there because of the scratching.
As true as the common saying, ‘prevention is better than cure’ goes, avoiding the lice from getting on your children would be far more convenient as treatment to some children are not as effective as expected, especially for the first-timers. Here are some simple tips on steering clear from these small-sized freeloaders.
1. Wet combing: Parents should spend some time at least once a week to inspect for lice or nits on the children’s head and neck. Exact favourite spots for louse to hang out are at the back of the head, near the neck and behind the ears. To do this, you can try your hands on a technique called wet combing, which involves applying hair conditioner on your children’s hair. Practically, the conditioner can stun the louse for 20 minutes should they are present. This process is efficient in screening the infestations.
2. Education: Few simple teachings may come a long way in keeping the lice away.
- Encourage your kids to avoid having head-to-head contact with their classmates in school
- Instruct your child to not share personal stuffs with others such as combs, brushes, hair accessories and headphones.
- Ask your child to avoid keeping the clothes together with other children at school, specifically during the physical education classes (Pendidikan Jasmani dan Kesihatan subject).
- Advise your children to keeping themselves from having direct contact for a while to their friends who have lice.
3. Keeping house clean: Clothing, bedding and towels should be always washed regularly. Should one of the family members is affected, then the mentioned items that are used by that person within 48 hours prior should be cleaned in hot water and dried in the dryer with hot setting. Apart from that, you can also opt for dry-cleaning. Furniture and carpets are also advised to be vacuumed. If there are stuffs that cannot be washed or vacuumed, seal them inside a plastic bag for at least 2 weeks.
4. Be vigilant: Always be observant in recognizing the symptoms of head lice as mentioned above. Ask the other parents or teachers to know if there is any frequent case at school or your children’s classroom.
5. Do not overdo it: Whenever there are infestations being reported at school, do not go panic and start your own treatment on your child for the sake of prevention. The most common mistake parents tend to do is applying chemical head lice shampoo to their children even though there is no lice at all. Apart from its uselessness, it can also contribute to the resistance of lice to the shampoo and bringing some dangerous side effects such as irritations to your children’s scalp. However, some over-the-counter products that use plant oils claim that they do possess the repelling effect to lice. There is yet established evidences being made to the claim. Other than that, spraying the home with pesticides and always keeping the hair short also would not be helpful in preventing lice.
There is no guarantee that by taking these steps, your children would be spared from this ravaging parasite. However, the possibility can be reduced, and these shots are worth taking. Always seek consultations from the healthcare professionals should you find yourself confused regarding this matter.