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The four grossest kid health problems
Fat kids got 'em all.
Kids plus germs often equals extreme yuckiness (think stomach flu). But
there are some childhood afflictions that -- even though they're not at
all dangerous -- are (how to put this?) truly disgusting. First, the good
news: The four conditions described here have nothing to do with hygiene
and are much more common than you think, so there's no need to be
embarrassed. The bad news? Well, read on.
What they a Tiny white worms that infect the intestines. They're about
half an inch long and threadlike in appearance.
Yuck factor: Pretty intense. Pinworm eggs hatch in the small intestine,
and the babies move to the large intestine. The adult female worms come
out at night to lay their eggs on the outside of the anus. You may even
see them (eww!) around your kid's rectum, in his underwear, or in his
How they spread: Anything touched by anyone with pinworms can spread their
eggs. It usually works like this: Kid scratches bottom; eggs embed under
the fingernails; kid touches something, leaves eggs behind (they live for
two weeks!); eggs get picked up and eventually ingested. Best not to think
about the particulars. The main point is, they're very contagious.
How you know he's got them: Pinworms itch like crazy at night (that's the
female worms laying their eggs). If your kid appears in his pajamas with
an itchy rear end night after night (but seems fine in the morning), you
may be dealing with the creepy crawlers. You can try to catch a glimpse of
the worms, but in the interest of minimizing trauma, throw yourself on
your doctor's mercy: Stick a piece of tape on your child's anus, then take
it in to the doc's office (he'll examine it under a microscope). If the
symptoms all line up, a prescription is in order. Parenting.com: It's not
your imagination! Why kids get sicker at night
What to do: Your doctor will prescribe a single dose of an anti-parasitic
and a second dose two weeks later. It's common to treat the whole family
because the worms are so contagious. And get ready for lots of laundry
(set the water temp to 130°F). Wash all bedding, stuffed animals, and
towels -- and then keep on laundering bedding and towels every few days.
Underwear and PJ's should be cleaned daily for at least three weeks.
What they a Parasitic insects that take up residence on the scalp and
hair. They attach their eggs to the base of individual hairs, and happily
complete their life cycle (nit, nymph, adult) on the human head in one to
Yuck factor: High. Visible, bloodsucking insects living in a colony on
your kid's head? Just thinking about it is enough to make you scratch your
head like crazy. Add in the inherent stigma (these are, after all, the
original cooties) associated with a lice infestation, and you're
guaranteed a case of the heebie-jeebies.
How they spread: These critters move from head to head, hat to head,
pillow to head, comb to head -- if it's been on someone's lice-ridden
melon, it's a possible vector. Lice can live for a couple of days without
human contact, so that baseball cap your kid scored from his new friend at
camp could be the source of his buggy hair. Parenting.com: Scary-sounding
(but common!) baby health problems
How you know he's got them: All you've got to do is look. The adult lice
are about the size of a pinhead -- you can see their little heads and legs
if you're brave enough to examine closely. The nits are tiny, yellowish
ovals that cling to individual hair shafts; they're most common on the
hair behind the ears and near the neck. (Nits look a bit like dandruff but
stick tight if you try to brush them off.) Lice bites itch, and kids can
feel the wee beasties crawling around (wah!) if they've got a really bad
What to do: Oh, boy. Most doctors agree that using a pesticide shampoo is
most effective (you can nit-pick for appearance's sake). For an
alternative route, you can try remedies like olive oil, tea tree oil, or
petroleum jelly, which may suffocate the lice; there are also any number
of nontoxic products, such as Happyheads. Wash all bedding, clothes, and
hairbrushes (at 130°F), vacuum rugs and upholstery, and seal away stuffed
animals for two weeks.
What they a A fungus that forms a red, itchy, raised circle on the skin
(despite its name, it's not a worm at all). Fungi enjoy warm, moist areas
and often appear in skin folds. (Fun fact: Jock itch is a kind of
ringworm!) Parenting.com: 6 health conditions your child may inherit
Yuck factor: Pretty low, once you get past the name. It sounds worse than
it is -- and while it is contagious, at least there are no visible
creatures to contend with.
How they spread: Locker rooms, damp towels, wrestling or gymnastic mats,
bathing suits or bathing caps, and even goggles can transmit ringworm. And
it can spread to different parts of the body through scratching.
How you know he's got them: An itchy (very itchy) red rash shaped like a
ring is a dead giveaway, though ringworm can simply look red, scaly, and
patchy like athlete's foot (a similar fungus) or just a regular old rash.
Because it's not always clear, head to the doc; she'll scrape a little
skin from the area to examine under a microscope.
What to do: An over-the-counter antifungal cream will usually work. But if
the infection is on the scalp or is particularly stubborn (lasting more
than two weeks), your doctor will most likely order a fungus-killing
prescription. You'll want to wash all towels, sheets, bathing suits, and
whatnot. One wash does the trick. Parenting.com: Is your child too sick
for school? When to keep her home
What they a Tiny mites that burrow into the skin and cause intense
itching, which is usually worse at night. Mites tend to dig in on the
hands, feet, and waist.
Yuck factor: Medium to high. Because you can often see the burrows (they
look like little curved scratches) and sometimes even the bugs poking out
(a tiny black dot), your child's skin, not to mention yours, may actually
How they spread: These guys make the rounds very easily -- either through
contact with an infected person (hugging, holding hands), or through
towels, clothes, sheets, and other personal belongings. As with pinworms,
if one person has scabies, the whole family's almost surely doomed.
How you know he's got them: Your kid starts itching like a maniac. Plus,
there are those visible tunnels. Your doctor can probably diagnose by
symptoms and examination alone. It can be hard to figure out where your
child picked up scabies because symptoms might appear weeks after
exposure. Great. Parenting.com: Not sure what he's got? Try our
interactive symptom checker
What to do: You'll need a prescription lotion, so get right to the
pediatrician if you suspect scabies. The bugs will persist unless the
whole family is treated simultaneously. Wash all clothes, bedding, and
towels that have been used in the last three days. Your doc can also
recommend an antihistamine to help with the itching insanity.
Thanks for sharing!
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