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Forgotten Back to School Health Risks

August 25
14:07 2017

The United States government, actually most states, require kids between certain ages to receive an education, whether it be in a public school, private or charter school or home school. The main reason for this is that illiteracy often leads to poverty and more health problems.

In the past few weeks, millions of kids have returned to school, public, private and charter. As parents, we often worry about what diseases our kids will be exposed to school – flu and flu-like illnesses, measles, chicken pox, colds and more.

We take care to keep their clothes washed, and to teach them to wash their hands after going to the bathroom. We try to teach them to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze and not to wipe their noses on their shirt sleeves.

But few parents these days take time to consider that there are two more dangers your kids could be exposed to as they return to school and the thought of them contracting either sends many parents into a panic. What are those two dangers? Head lice and scabies.

There are about 21 million cases of head lice every year in children and adults. The majority of cases of head lice occur in children attending pre-school and elementary school. Not that many years ago, many schools had a head lice screening policy where students were regularly checked for the presence of head lice or their nits (eggs).

Head lice is spread by direct contact with infected hair, but it is easily treated with a variety of medicated shampoos and ointments.

Many people believe that head lice only occur in poor people and people with poor hygiene, but that’s not true. Head lice can occur in anybody who comes in contact with someone who is already infected. The spread of head lice can happen rapidly, crossing economic and social barriers. One of our daughters got head lice while attending a private Christian school, so yes, they are not confined to public schools.

Sadly, many schools no longer have head lice screening programs and consequently, the number of cases of school kids infected by head lice are growing.

Yeah, some parents think about head lice and regularly check their children’s scalps, but very few think about scabies or even know what scabies is.

Consider this recent post:

“In one recent case at Winchester Hospital, a patient was admitted for treatment without the staff realizing that he had an active infection. Once he was in the hospital, over 20 staff members began showing signs of scabies and required treatment right away to prevent it from spreading.”

“According to Winchester Hospital’s statement in the Boston Globe, ‘Scabies is highly contagious, but also highly treatable’.”

“Contagious is an understatement when you’re looking at the numbers. The World Health Organization reveals that scabies affects over 100 million people worldwide. People from all races and social classes can get the infection, but it has a high prevalence in children and older adults living in crowded or poor conditions.”

“Because scabies does happen more often in crowded areas and transfers easily through skin contact, schools offer the perfect opportunity for this infection. Learn to recognize scabies and voice your concerns if you suspect that a child in school is infected.”

Scabies is caused by a very tiny mite, Sarcoptes scabiei, that is almost impossible to see with the naked eye. They burrow into the upper layer of your skin where they feed on your blood, mate and lay eggs. They cause a rash that is extremely itchy and irritating. They can cause greyish lines to appear under the skin, often connecting the red bumps in the rash.

A scabies rash is usually red and often concentrates more around the feet and hands. The itching and irritation often intensifies at night. The rash can also become scaly looking and appear similar to rashes causes by dermatitis, poison ivy and syphilis and even like flea bites.

Some people have had success in treating scabies with home remedies including tea tree oil, neem, aloe vera, cayenne pepper and clove oil. However, these treatments may not work in all cases, so it’s best to see a doctor who will prescribe a topical medication that kills the mites and clears the rash.

As your kids return to school, you should make a habit of regularly checking their scalp for head lice and their hands and feet for any signs of rashes which could be an indication of scabies.

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HLA Staff

HLA Staff

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