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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Scalp Problems

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Head Lice

Lice are an unpleasant but all-too-common part of childhood. More than 12 million Americans get them every year, and most are between the ages of 3 and 11. Once lice find their way into a school or summer camp, they spread quickly as children share combs, brushes, and hats.

Lice are wingless insects about the size of a sesame seed. They feed on blood, and the females lay their eggs on the hair close to the scalp. Although they don't cause serious illness, they are something that children -- and their parents -- would rather live without. Having lice doesn’t mean a child is dirty, as they can pop up in anyone’s hair.

To treat, parents can use an over-the-counter product with permethrin (Nix), pyrethrin (Rid), or spinosad (Natroba). Lice kits usually contain a special shampoo that is left on the hair for 10 minutes and then washed out, and a fine-toothed comb to remove any remaining eggs.

Another treatment is a lotion called Sklice, which doesn’t use a comb. One treatment may be all that's needed. The key ingredient is ivermectin, a powerful parasite killer. You can use it on kids as young as 6 months.

Clearing up lice also requires that you thoroughly clean house. Vacuum the rugs and furniture, and then wash all of the child's clothes, hats, bedding, and towels in hot water.  Dry-clean items you can’t wash, like stuffed animals, or seal them in plastic bags for two weeks. Experts recommend that you continue to check the hair for two to three weeks to make sure that all of the lice and nits (eggs) are gone. Use another lice kit after 10 days. This will kill any bugs that survived the first round of treatment.

Ringworm

Despite the name, ringworm has nothing to do with worms. It's an infection that leaves round, scaly, red rashes and patches of hair loss on the scalp. Ringworm is most common in children between the ages of 3 and 7, but it can affect adults, too. It’s spread through close contact or by sharing hats, clothing, towels, and combs. In rare cases, it's possible to catch ringworm from a dog or cat.

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