Louse invasion destroys mom’s tranquility

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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am going buggy — literally. My 5-year-old kindergartener has head lice. I discovered them because he started scratching his head. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about this. I can’t imagine where he picked them up. Is the entire family destined to come down with them? I have four other children, two dogs and a husband. Help. — B.C.

ANSWER: Head lice cause mothers more consternation than just about any other illness. For the record, head lice don’t transmit any illnesses. They do cause itching and scratching. They’re not a reflection of your cleanliness. Most likely your child picked them up at school from head-to-head contact or from sharing caps, brushes or combs.

The head louse is only 3 mm (0.12 inches) long. They’re difficult to see. The female louse lays her eggs at the base of the hair and glues them to the hair. The eggs are called nits. They hatch in about eight days. Nits found within a quarter of an inch from the scalp indicate active infection. If they are farther away, the infection is not likely to be active.

Treatments for head lice are many and usually quite effective. Advisory bodies promote permethrin (Nix) as the treatment of choice. It calls for reapplication in one week to 10 days. Malathion lotion (Ovide) is another reliable cure. Benzyl alcohol (Ulesfia Lotion 5 percent) is another good treatment that is applied to dry hair and then rinsed off. Natroba (spinosad) Topical Solution was approved in January of this year as a head lice treatment. Both these latter two medicines need a prescription. You have many choices. Some of these treatments include combing the wet hair with a fine-toothed comb to get rid of nits. You do not have to treat other family members if they show no signs of infection. Pets are safe; human head lice don’t like them. The only household cleaning necessary is vacuuming chairs and carpets where your 5-year-old has been. Clothes he has worn in the past two days need to be washed in hot water and dried with maximum heat. Lice that are off the head live for only two days.

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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I recently read your article on pulmonary hypertension. I have pulmonary hypertension. There is a great organization that has a website and a support line for this illness. It’s the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. The phone is 800-748-7274 and the website is www.phassociation.org. The association offers much information on the illness and its treatments, as well as tips for insurance, qualified doctors and support groups. Please pass this along. — F.M.

ANSWER: Thank you. We have two different circulations. One is for the entire body except the lungs. The other is for the lungs (pulmonary) only. The lungs have a blood pressure that is about one-fifth of the body’s. They cannot stand the high pressure needed to push blood throughout the body. A rise in lung pressure is pulmonary hypertension. Breathlessness and fatigue are its prominent symptoms. Several varieties of pulmonary hypertension exist, and each is treated somewhat differently.

I know many people will be grateful for your directing them to the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. Its website is impressive.

I’m glad you included a toll-free number. Some people have no access to a computer.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am writing to you regarding the person who wrote to you about a frozen shoulder. I had a very bad frozen shoulder and went through terrible pain. Nothing helped me. I sought a second opinion that saved my life. The doctor had me put to sleep and then manipulated my shoulder. After a month of physical therapy, I am able to work again. Tell that person to try it. — E.T.

ANSWER: Shoulder manipulation is a treatment for frozen shoulder, a shoulder that has lost its motion. Generally, it is reserved for people for whom other treatments have failed. Anesthesia frightens many people.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.

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