Back to school time!

It’s back to school time! While this can be a busy and exciting time of year, it also brings some headaches for parents. This article contains some back to school health information for parents navigating the minefield of headlice and threadworms.


  1. Head lice

Head lice spread by head to head contact. It is a common problem at this time of year with schools restarting after the summer break. There are some practical things that parents can do to prevent the chances of their children catching head lice such as keeping long hair tied back in a plait. You can also buy repellent sprays that can help disrupt the life cycle of any lice that land on the hair. These sprays should be used daily. It is also useful to inspect the hair frequently. This inspection should be done with a fine tooth comb with the hair divided into sections. It is important to pay careful attention to the nape of the neck and behind the ears. It is important to be aware of what head lice actually look like; they are grey to black in colour and about 3mm long. Whereas the eggs are opaque white to yellow in colour and cling to the base of the hair.

If you find lice you should treat them as quickly as possible to avoid further spread. You can buy 2 types of treatment in the pharmacy; one is based on an insecticide called permethrin and the other works of suffocating the lice. It is very important to use the treatments exactly as directed. It is crucial to treat all affected members of the household.


  1. Threadworms

Back to school time can also bring threadworms. They live in the intestine but the female worm comes out at night which causes the itching around the anus associated with worms. Usually children who have threadworms are irritable during the day due to lack of sleep because of night time itching. Sometimes children will lose weight even though their appetite has remained the same. It is also possible to identify threadworms visually as tiny white cotton threads in the stool. Threadworms are easily passed among household members sharing the same towels and bed linen.


It is important to treat everyone in the household at the same time. The medication used to treat threadworms is called Vermox (Mebendazole) and is available over the counter in pharmacies for patients over two years of age. It is available as a liquid or tablet. The dose is the same for adults as it is for children over two years of age; 5mls of the liquid or one tablet. The dose should then be repeated after 2 weeks as it won’t kill the eggs which can take two weeks to hatch. There are also non medicated measures that can help avoid re infestation. These include; observing strict hygiene especially around meal times, using separate towels and linen and wearing tight fitting underwear. It is also important to change all bed linen and to carefully hover the living area on the treatment day in order to eliminate any eggs.


  1. Prevention of colds in children

When children spend 7 hours a day together in the classroom it is common that bugs spread quickly. It can be helpful to boost your child’s immunity before they return to school. There are many multivitamin available in pharmacies, however if a child has a very good diet a vitamin C and Zinc supplement. It is also possible to get probiotics supplements that can help stimulate good gut health. Children should also be taught good hygiene such as hand washing and using hand gels.

Call into your local pharmacy for more advice for this busy time of year.