When it comes to kids and parasites, Public Enemy Number One is head lice, of course. Oh, we know all about lice, probably because it's the most common and most visible. Lice are parasitic insects that fester in the hair and live off blood in the scalp. Children are more prone to them than adults because adults like to put lots of goop and product in their hair. Lice hate that. They like shiny, clean, virgin hair.
They can be extremely tricky to get rid of, and are a source of angst for many moms who have to keep their children home from school until they are lice-free.
While lice are the most well-known, they are certainly not the only parasite known to love our kids. Meet two more:
Pinworm is another. My daughter had the pleasure of meeting this little fella a few months ago. She woke up in the middle of the night (she NEVER does this) complaining that her "bum itched." Not her cheeks or the area around her bottom, but the fragile skin directly at her rectum. We were puzzled. This led to a pediatrician's visit the next day, where we learned about Enterobius vermicularis, a common parasite that typically enters a child's digestive tract through eating or sitting in dirt or sand. It is also easily spread, so even a child who doesn't dine on dirt can pick it up through oral contact with a friend who does carry the worm.
Pinworm feeds off nutrients in the intestine, but at night it comes out through the rectum to lay it's eggs on the outer skin, causing the intense itching symptom.
Unlike lice, for which there are numerous types of treatments available, the go-to remedy for pinworm is an anti-parasitic drug that the child takes in two doses over the span of a week.
Another common parasite to watch out for: Giardia lamblia, which is one of the main causes of diarrhea or giardiasis. The parasite attaches itself to the lining of the small intestines in humans, where it sabotages the body's absorption of fats and carbohydrates from digested foods. Because it comes from contaminated water, kids can pick it up anywhere.
Parasites are everywhere. They do not discriminate: clean, dirty, rich, poor, black, white -- all kids can and do get them. All we can do is be wary of the symptoms, treat, and hope they decide not to visit our children again.
Image via Eran Finkle/Flickr