Head Lice – a Problem for UK girls
During one of my several visits to British schools, a young girl of about twelve approached me with a gloomy face, accompanied by a couple of her friends.
She was bullied by the school children who called her abusive names such as ‘Nit Girl’ and all those who knew her as such, refused to play with her.
Ema, as she was known, was too shy to disclose her problem to me, but the other girl with her revealed that Ema had a long-term severe problem with head lice.
I was well aware of the problem of head lice in young girls in the UK but until then, I had never come into direct contact with one. Now here before me was Ema, with her shy and downcast face, waiting for the Indian Doctor to come up with a sure treatment for the well established and chronic condition of lice in her head.
I thought it preferable to discuss the issue with her mother and I asked Ema to come with her mother to my Sunday session at the Health Centre of Middlesex. This she did, and I asked her mother what she had been doing for the problem.
“Ema had been suffering from the indignity of head lice for the last two years. I have tried all sorts of treatments to get rid of the lice, but all in vain. All kinds of oils, creams, sprays and even Vaseline had been used in efforts to rid Ema’s head of the lice, but nothing had proved successful so far. The obstinate droves of lice had taken up permanent residence in her hair.
There had been no response to washing the hair with medicated soaps or shampoos; only the comb succeeded in removing large numbers of lice. I have given her a comb to keep in her school bag and advised her to use it as and when required. But even the comb could not remove all the lice and nits, and those that remained multiplied every day. Please doctor! Show me the right treatment to get rid of lice.”
It was really a headache for the mother and a big problem for Ema. Her classmates tried to keep away from her at all costs. At home, her elder sister and younger brother teased her and also tried not to get near her. The poor girl was treated no better than an ‘untouchable’.
She hesitated to visit the homes of her relatives as she found them always talking of her head lice. None of her relatives ever dared to sit by her. They were all aware of her problem and treated her as an unclean and untouchable person. It was easy to understand why they treated her in this way, as head lice easily pass from one person to another and they were understandably afraid to touch her.
Lice stay on the scalp, not in the hair, and they lay eggs which rapidly multiply in numbers.
In India, the head lice problem was not thought of with such abhorrence, as the village girls and even adult women had lice in their hair, mainly because of not washing their hair for long periods, even during hot weather. That encouraged the lice and when such women were resting side by side during their lunch hours or at night; they passed on the lice to the others.
As Ema had tried all the available treatments from the local physicians, and none of them had worked, I had to go for my special Indian treatment.
In the circumstances, I could have asked Ema’s mother to liberally spray DDT over her head after washing the hair with medicated soap. Although DDT sprayed onto the head is neither completely safe nor convenient, it is a sure way to kick out most of the lice along with siblings and even eggs. The head, when sprayed with DDT should be covered by a scarf, and of course the eyes and ears should be properly protected from the spray. Otherwise, it could be another serious problem.
Not only will the crowd of lice flee from the chemical sprayed on the hair, but also many of them will die instantly. Six to eight hours after spraying, the hair should be thoroughly washed.
This procedure should be repeated every other week for about three months, then twice annually and after that, once a year, when all signs of the head lice should have vanished.
Another very effective treatment for removing head lice in the long term is the use of Neem Oil for about two weeks, or for six to eight weekends. Neem Oil smells awful but it is not harmful to either eyes or ears. If it can be tolerated, there is every chance of wiping out the increasing families of lice from the hair roots before the end of the first week.
For Ema, I prescribed Neem Oil. If it could not be found in London’s Herbal Medicine stores, it could readily be imported form India. A source was found and Ema’s long term problem was satisfactorily sorted out within twenty days by using Indian Neem Oil.
I received an Email from Ema,
“ Doctor Kerai, you have been a God sent person in my life as you have really relieved me from the hell of Lice that had harassed and tortured me for long. Now, I am completely free of the lice problem and I have passed on your treatment to a dozen of girls.
May God bless you with the long healthy life to serve the suffering girls of my type?
I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my life for a great relief.”