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Parasites that could Affect Your Baby
There are a number of parasites that can affect your child – or you – which are quite common, so you need to be aware, and watch for signs and symptoms – consulting your doctor when necessary.
FleasClusters of itchy red bumps on your child’s arms, shoulders or bottom could be flea bites. Fleas usually jump from a dog or cat, and your child’s skin is soft and sensitive, so he or she may be the only one in the family to be bitten.
- Keep the area clean and your child’s skin will recover as long as the bites do not become infected – in which case, consult your doctor.
- To soothe itching, antiseptic creams are available from pharmacies, but check the age suitability.
- Regularly treat family pets with flea (and worming) products, advised by your vet.
- Treat the pet’s bedding.
- Regularly and thoroughly vacuum carpets and soft furniture wherever the pet is allowed in the house.
Head liceYou may face this common problem, which is spread by close contact only – lice cannot jump or fly – and has nothing to do with how clean or dirty the hair is. Lice feed on blood from the scalp, the females lay eggs that stick firmly to the hair, then tiny white ‘nits’ hatch after about 10 days. To break the cycle, lice must be dealt with before more eggs are laid.
- Watch for signs of itchiness or redness on your child’s scalp, but do check your child’s scalp regularly, as not all children suffer itchiness.
- Look for white ‘dots’ on the hair shaft near the scalp – especially behind the ears, at the nape of the neck, and crown of the head.
- If you find nits, wet-comb, using a specially-developed fine ‘nit comb’ and plenty of hair conditioner.
- Use an over-the-counter product – not only on your child, but on the whole family.
- Advise your child’s nursery or playgroup staff, or his or her school teacher.
ScabiesThe scabies parasite burrows under the skin surface – particularly on the hands and feet – and causes extreme itching that often is worse at night, or when the skin is warm. Itchy bumps, sometimes filled with pus, can sometimes be mistaken for eczema.
- Bedding, towels, clothing, etc. need to be washed at very high temperatures – or even destroyed.
- Scabies must be treated by a doctor.
- Scabies is very infectious, so all family members must be treated at the same time.
ThreadwormsMany children and adults contract threadworms – often never knowing that they have had them – and they are not an indication of poor home cleanliness. If your child has threadworms, the only real sign will be itchiness around his or her anus when the female threadworms emerge and lay eggs in the skin – often at night, when your child is sleeping. Scratching transfers eggs to your child’s fingers, which may then be put into the mouth or onto food, to re-enter the body and hatch in your child’s intestines – and repeat the cycle.
- Medication that will get rid of the worms completely is available from pharmacies.
- The whole family must be treated at the same time.
- Threadworm eggs can survive on surfaces, toys, clothes and bedding for 2 to 3 weeks, so these must be disinfected, or washed at high temperatures as appropriate.
- Threadworm eggs can live on the coats of family pets – brush and comb your pets frequently and give them regular worming treatment.
- After using the toilet and before preparing and eating food, your child and all family members should always wash their hands thoroughly.
RoundwormsRoundworm infections are more frequently found in hot, humid countries, and infection comes from contact with food, water or soil contaminated with roundworm eggs. Roundworms mainly infect the intestines, but other areas can be affected.
• There may be fever, tiredness, rash, tummy pains, vomiting, diarrhoea – or sometimes no symptoms at all.
• Roundworm must be diagnosed by a doctor, after microscopic examination of a small stool sample.
• Infection can be treated efficiently with prescribed medication.
ToxoplasmosisToxoplasmosis is a danger if you become infected with it for the first time while you are pregnant, as it can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth defects.
The toxoplasmosis parasite may be present in:
- Unpasteurised milk or milk products such as cheeses,
- Under-cooked meat,
- Soil-grown vegetables and salad items,
- Cat faeces.
- It is also a risk if you live or work on a farm and deal with lambing.
When you are pregnant:
- Avoid the foods listed,
- Wear gloves when dealing with cat litter or doing any gardening,
- Cook meat thoroughly, wash and cook vegetables really well, and wash and peel all fruit.
If you are infected with toxoplasmosis, antibiotics will be prescribed to reduce the risk of infection transferring to your baby, and to limit the severity of congenital toxoplasmosis if your baby has been infected.
This information presented to you acts as a guide which contains researched information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.
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