September means back to school – the end of a busy summer vacation season and time for Mom and Dad to relax as the kids are occupied with new friends and activities. Sometimes the close contact that kids have with each other can lend itself to the development of some common childhood skin infections. Here we review some of the more common infections seen in this age group:
- Head Lice
Also known as pediculosis capitis, this infestation of the scalp and hair is caused by the louse called Pediculus humanus capitis. The infestation produces an itchy rash on the scalp and neck. The louse that causes head lice is spread by direct contact with another child’s head or through shared items, such as hats or brushes. Treatment usually consists of medicated shampoos and removal of the nits (eggs that are tiny white attachments) on the hair shaft with a fine-toothed comb.
Scabies infestation causes an incredibly itchy rash, usually initially distributed between the fingers and toes and around the belly button and nipples. When long-standing, scabies can spread throughout the body. Caused by a mite that lives on the skin called Sarcoptes scabiei, infestation occurs with direct skin-to-skin contact or by contact with infested clothing or bedding, etc. Treatment involves the use of a topical cream that is used once overnight and repeated one week later to ensure resolution of the infestation.
Formally known as tinea corporis when it affects the body or tinea capitis when it affects the scalp and hair, some forms can cause hair loss. Ringworm is caused by a fungal infection on the top layer of skin that can be spread by direct person-to-person contact or by contaminated items (hats, brushes, etc). Treatment may include topical cream for infection on the body or an oral antifungal medication for treatment of the scalp.
Known as molluscum contagiosum in the medical field due to its contagious nature, this is a common viral infection. Molluscum lesions are usually skin-colored bumps that can be found anywhere on the body, but they most commonly occur on the arms or legs. They sometimes have a slight depression over the central surface of the bump, and molluscum lesions may or may not itch or have other symptoms associated with them. Molluscum is caused by a viral infection of the skin that can be spread by scratching the lesions. Some treatment options include cold liquid nitrogen spray applied by a physician or topical application of a medication that induces an inflammatory response. Or, you may choose to do nothing at all, as the body’s own immune system often resolves the infection on its own.
In medical terms, warts are referred to as Verruca vulgaris. Like molluscum, warts are caused by a viral infection of the skin. Human papillomavirus is responsible for the development of these lesions. Warts can occur on any body site, most commonly on the hands or feet of children. Warts on the feet are often painful due to the pressure of walking on the thickened, hard skin. Treatment is varied, and some warts can be quite stubborn, resisting many treatments and growing for years. Some of the more common methods to treat warts include over-the-counter salicylic acid treatments, liquid nitrogen freezing in the doctor’s office, or administration of injectable or topical medications to induce the body’s immune response.
Hopefully none of these common problems will affect you or your loved ones this
coming school year. If they do, though, you are armed with the information you need to get to the doctor and clear things up!