September has just begun, and I noticed while researching things that occur during the ninth month that September is National Pediculosis Prevention Month. My initial reaction to this was, “What the heck is pediculosis?”
Just in case you were wondering that same thing, I looked it up to save you the trouble. Pediculosis, it seems, is a nicer way of saying “an infestation of lice”. Nicer, and shorter, as well–I’m not sure how well ‘National Month for the Prevention of Lice Infestation’ would fit on a banner at the bake sale fundraiser. Also not sure if you would want to buy any baked goods after seeing that.
So now that we know what pediculosis means and why the word is used, let’s learn a little more about the problem itself. The most common type of pediculosis is an infestation of head lice, spread through head-to-head contact, such as when people are cuddling or sleeping side-by-side. It’s most commonly found in children ages 3-10 and their families. Every now and then, you will hear of a lice infestation sweeping through an elementary school, complete with kids lining up to be inspected. Treatment for head lice includes medicated shampoos and ointments as well as physical treatments like delousing combs, hot air and even shaving, when all else fails (lice are not super easy to get rid of). People of African descent have an advantage when it comes to lice–they are less susceptible to these infestations because of their hair texture.
There are other types of lice infestations (and other types of lice) besides that which involve the head. The hair on one’s body can be the subject of pediculosis, as well. The infestation that we know as “crabs”, which strikes the genital area, is a type of lice infestation–pubic lice. If one is nervous about applying chemical treatments to these more sensitive areas, at least it is much easier to simply shave hair off the body than off the head. Lice are similar to fleas and ticks in that they like to stay on the body, biting the skin to drink blood. This can cause a lot of itching discomfort, as well as other, more serious, complications–some very deadly diseases such as Typhus can be spread by lice. Fortunately, only body lice, which are different from head and pubic lice, are known to spread disease.
To prevent pediculosis, avoid contact with other sufferers, keep bedding and clothing well-laundered and keep hair and body clean. Pediculosis is actually on the rise, probably owing to an increase in population and more crowded living conditions, so be aware and keep yourself as clean as is practically possible.