—Wayne Yankus, M.D., Pediatrician in New Jersey
As parents, we are never ready for the onslaught of illnesses that plague schools, generally six to eight weeks after school starts: strep throat, colds, influenza, sinus infections, ear aches, and yes, head lice.
Pest-y Little Invaders—A Real Head-trip
Yes, I know this isn’t a subject anyone chooses to discuss, much less be the recipient of these uninvited guests. However, the reality is that most children will be infected at sometime from their schoolmates. The following are natural, non-toxic remedies and suggestions to eradicate head lice:
Note: These remedies are NOT listed in the order of effectiveness but rather simply as options.
- At first sign of infestation, use the specifically designed lice comb (teeth of comb are very close together to eject lice). When comb is used it brings the lice with it. Keep in mind that it’s easier to comb when the hair is a bit oily and not freshly washed.
- Head lice are one of the most contagious infestations—they travel easily from one person to another. Keep your bed sheets, pillow covers, towels and washcloths clean and use white distilled vinegar as a final rinse—use hot water, as hot as items can tolerate without damage.
- Mix equal parts of a quality mineral oil (like baby oil) and white distilled vinegar. Apply on head and cover it with a shower cap for approximately one hour. Afterwards, use lice comb, then rinse with ordinary organic shampoo (preferably one that contains tea tree oil). This treatment cleans off the lice from your hair and scalp.
- An old, tried and true, remedy is to apply a mixture of lemon juice and melted butter or mayonnaise on your head. Apply and leave on for about 15 minutes. Use lice comb and then rinse with usual shampoo.
- Add 15 – 20 drops of tea tree oil into an organic shampoo bottle (6 – 8 oz.) and use accordingly. Rinse with pure lemon juice and water.
- These treatments and procedures may need to be followed periodically for two to three weeks to prevent reinfestation. Crucial is removing all nits (eggs) from hair so there are no new hatchlings. Frequent, even daily, inspections of hair, especially roots, are recommended.
Keep in mind that it has become easier to be infected from places we don’t usually think about. For instance, if an infected person sits in an airplane and rests their head on the headrest, the next person who sits there can easily become infected. Make sure you investigate if suddenly you begin to itch in your head; the quicker you identify lice, the better chance you have of stopping them from multiplying. Encourage your children to NEVER share combs, brushes, etc. to reduce chances of spreading these critters. Find out what precautions the school is taking such as head checks, not hanging coats together, or cleaning rugs more often.
Two Weeks BEFORE School Starts
Schedule sleep—avoid lost zzz’s by having your student gradually go to bed and get up earlier two weeks before classes start. Avoid big meals and caffeine before bedtime.
Immune support—it’s better to stay healthy than to get well. Provide extra immune support by increasing daily vitamin C consumption along with a supplement that contains herbs for immune support like echinacea, goldenseal, astragalus, etc. Vitamin C works by increasing the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies and increases levels of interferon, the antibody that coats cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses.
Additionally, a good probiotic supplement is essential. Probiotics support intestinal health and we now know scientifically that most of our immune system is based in our gut. Probiotics help to compensate for fast food, unhealthy school lunches, lack of adequate hydration, and the stresses associated with education in general. Daily adequate elimination is vital to good health. Make sure your student is able to easily evacuate daily. If not, add additional natural fiber from raw vegetables and fruits. For those times when a “gentle nudge” is needed, use extra vitamin C or some of those newly available individually-wrapped prunes—children love them.
Hydrate—students always seem to believe they drink enough water when most do not. It is generally recommended to consume half of your body weight, in ounces of water daily, (example: 50 lbs. = 25 oz. of water). If the student is especially active physically and/or lives in hot/humid climates, water consumption should be even more.
Note: It is advisable to carry their own water bottle, and make sure it is BPA-free so they aren’t hydrating and then pouring dangerous chemicals from the plastic directly into their system. Advise students to never drink from a drinking fountain; it’s the easiest way to pass germs.
Ban heavy bags—backpacks shouldn’t weigh more than 10–15 percent of the student’s weight, (example: Weight 50 lbs. = 7.5 lbs of backpack weight maximum). Look for pads on the shoulder straps and back, and put the heaviest items closest to the body. For extra support, get a bag with a waist strap or a backpack on wheels.
Body mechanics—if the student is at the computer for more than 45 minutes at one sitting, make sure their body mechanics support their bones and muscles. The monitor should be able to be viewed without flexing the neck. The chair height should support the body by making sure the right angle of the leg is parallel with the floor—this avoids stress on the lower back and hips. The arms should also be at a complete neutral right angle while keyboarding and using the mouse.
Avoid sugar—it’s a known fact that sugar suppresses the immune system, not to mention sabotaging overall health. There are several natural sweeteners on the market in your health food store; there is no longer a reason to continue to attack our body’s defenses with sugar. Because sugar also encourages the growth of health-depleting yeast organisms within the digestive tract, students many times experience “brain-fog”, ADD/ADHD, etc.—never connecting that sugar (or chemical food additives) can be the root cause. Teachers have long commented upon the change in student attention span and behavior in the afternoons following high-carb/high sugar school lunches.
Note: Eating or drinking 100 grams (8 tbsp.) of sugar, the equivalent of two cans of soda, reduces the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by forty percent! The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes AFTER ingestion and may last for up to five hours.
Hand sanitation—it is extremely important that students wash their hands frequently and keep their hands away from their face, nose, mouth and ears.
I do not advocate using anti-bacterial soaps or wipes on a regular basis because they can have the same adverse affect long-term as antimicrobials, which can create conditions of drug resistance. Additionally, they dry the skin and create macro (large) pores which make the individual more susceptible to infections.
I prefer using a clear gel of silver hydrosol which is fragrance-free and not only kills germs but also absorbs through the skin to benefit local immune responses by restoring integrity to the skins dermal layers.
At First Sign of Symptoms or Exposure
It’s easy to ignore illness when symptoms first manifest. The following are signs to watch for in order to take proactive measures to avoid or reduce illness:
At first sign of a sore throat, even slight, begin first response protocols that include additional vitamin C, NOT orange juice because it does create extra phlegm and mucous.
Additionally, and I believe most important, is to supplement with silver hydrosol. This remedy is available in nasal spray (great for air travel and when around others who are ill), and liquid. I recommend 1/2 tsp. three times a day, for students age 12 and below), ages 12 and above, I use one tsp. four times a day until all symptoms are gone. For my patients and my family, we use this remedy as our first line of defense, the same as you’d use an antibiotic. It’s been used for centuries to kill bacteria, viruses and health-depleting microorganisms—without causing damage to the integrity of the digestive tract or lining—compromising health-enhancing (good) intestinal bacteria. Keep in mind that antibiotics kill ALL bacteria, good and bad, leaving us vulnerable to another infection usually six to eight weeks later, especially in children.
Increase probiotics during times of stress to the immune system and during illnesses. There are several forms available that are chewable and a powder that can easily be mixed into juice for children.
- Make sure your child’s emergency information is up-to-date with the nurse and school office. Most schools list emergency numbers in the order of priority—make sure the person you want to be the first contact is in that order; mother, father, grandparents, neighbor, etc.
- The child’s physician and dentist should be listed along with medical permission in writing and should be kept at school and the office of each health professional in case you cannot be reached.
- If your child takes medications, the school nurse needs to know—even if they are only taken at home. Remember that under law if any medications are to be taken or given at school they must be in the pharmacy bottle and clearly marked.
- Make sure any allergies are listed in the general information on record with the school office AND nurse. For instance, allergies to foods, plants, trees, bee stings or latex should be identified and any specifically prescribed medications such as a EpiPen for bee stings should be kept at school for emergency use.
- If your child has a physical restriction, be sure to specially identify it in the health information. For instance, asthma, a heart murmur, sleep disorder, digestive issues, vision impairment, etc.
- ALWAYS make sure the student has an I.D. card in their backpack. This must include all the same pertinent information as stated above in the event the student is not able to speak for himself or herself.