Friends You Don’t Want to Bring Home from School – Lice, Scabies, & Ringworm
September 2, 2015 | By Evans Dermatology Staff
School is back in session! The backpacks are dusted off, and all of the fall activities are underway. With all of the fun back to school activities can come some unwelcome guests affecting the skin, such as ringworm, scabies, and lice.
These conditions are especially common among school age children because of the close person to person contact among children in the classroom, on the playground, and in the gym.
Unfortunately, these nuisances can carry unwarranted stigmas. First off, remember that these are very common problems that can affect literally anyone. Also, it is not true that ringworm, scabies, and lice infestations only occur in those living in dirty or poor hygiene conditions. Having one of these conditions is not a poor reflection of your household. Finally, these pests do not carry other diseases. So, there is not a risk of your child being negatively affected after successful treatment.
These issues can make Mom and Dad cringe for their child. But, don’t panic! Ringworm, scabies, and lice are easily treatable with the help of your friendly neighborhood dermatologist.
Ringworm is a common name for what dermatologists call tinea infections. This is caused by several species of fungi, known as dermatophytes, that infect the surface of the skin. So, there is not an actual worm living inside the skin.
Ringworm can affect any area on the body and typically appears as a red, scaly, circular rash. Affected areas are also quite itchy.
Come see your dermatologist if such an issue arises on your child. Many other conditions can appear similar to ringworm. If needed, your dermatologist can determine the difference in the office by performing a skin scraping of the affected area and looking under the microscope for fungal material. You may be recommended over the counter topical antifungals, such as terbinafine (Lamisil), clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF), or butenafine (Lotrimin Ultra). However, if the infection is more widespread or in a particularly hair bearing area, you may be prescribed an oral antifungal agent.
Scabies are a type of mite that is too small for the naked eye to see. These little guys are very contagious and can easily pass from one person to another with close contact. So, scabies will generally affect several people in the same household.
They burrow into the skin where they get nutrients and lay their eggs. There are typically only several mites on a person at a time, and they can only survive for several weeks.
Scabies typically affect areas of friction such as the back of the armpits and groin. They are often found on the inner wrists, between the fingers, and near the nipples as well. When digging into the skin, they can leave behind telltale burrows and can be incredibly itchy.
You’ll certainly want to see your dermatologist to help get rid of scabies. Your dermatologist can determine if this is indeed the issue with a skin scraping. If your child is found to have scabies, you’ll be provided a regimen for a prescription cream (permethrin) to apply from chin to toes. The whole family may be recommended to do so as well. Consider it family bonding!
Your child could also encounter head lice at school. Everyone remembers the visits to the nurse’s office in elementary school to have their hair combed through. That was to check for lice.
Lice are small bugs that grasp onto hair shafts and crawl down to the skin and bite. They also lay eggs, known as nits, close to the base of the hair shaft which grow out as the hairs grow.
You’ll likely first notice lice because of the itching caused from biting the scalp. On closer examination, small bugs can be seen slowly moving at the root of hair. Nits can be seen as small white bumps at the scalp.
If you have concerns of your child having lice, your dermatologist is here to help by ensuring that lice are indeed the problem. If your child does indeed have lice, everyone in your house will need to be treated with a regimen of a topical anti pesticide agent on the scalp. More family bonding! Different agents may need to be prescribed for different family members based on age and any skin allergies. This will kill off all living lice in the family.
However, the nits are more stubborn. Even washing the hair thoroughly will not remove them all, which could result in recurrence of lice infestation as the eggs hatch. Special combs to remove the eggs are available. Your dermatologist can recommend such combs and discuss proper use. Cutting the hair very short is an option, but this may not be desirable for those that enjoy their long locks.
Ringworm, scabies, and lice are certainly pesky unwanted guests, but just remember that they are quite common, especially in children. Other than itching and a rash, these problems do not cause other health risks. They are all easily treated, and your dermatologist is happy to help you get rid of these nuisances and get back to enjoying the new school year.