Parasites | Emma's Diary India

Child By Year

Understanding and treating parasites


From fleas to worms: we look at common parasites which could affect your child

Take a look at our guide and learn how to treat the most common parasites your little toddler may come into contact with...


Flea bites can produce intensely itchy, red bumps on the skin, usually in clusters and often on the legs, feet and ankles.

Nearly always the fleas will have jumped onto the child from a dog or cat.

Sometimes the baby or child may be the only person affected in the house because their skin may be more sensitive.

The animal with the fleas and its bedding must be treated immediately or you will never see the end of this problem. Household carpets, rugs and flooring, furniture, skirting boards and other soft furnishings in the room where your pet is allowed should also be thoroughly vacuumed.

Your dog and cat should be given flea and worming treatments regularly; your vet can advise you about the treatments that are available which are suitable for your pet. Remember some treatments for dogs can be poisonous for cats.

The child's skin is best left to recover by itself, but an antihistamine treatment from the chemist may reduce the itching (always check age suitability of any medication).

If you suspect any of the bites have become infected see your doctor.

Head lice

Parents are always horrified when their children get head lice, but of course it is a very common problem and has nothing to do with how clean or dirty their hair is.

Lice (which are the size of a match head) cannot jump or fly, but move by climbing along the hair shaft. They can therefore only spread from child to child if their heads are actually in contact or through sharing items such as hats, towels and brushes.

The lice live on the hair and feed off blood from the scalp. The female louse lays eggs that become cemented to the hair with a special sticky substance.

These eggs hatch 7 to 10 days later leaving the empty shells (nits) on the hair. The nits can be seen as white pin-head-sized specks. These white specks look like dandruff but while dandruff is easy to comb out, nits tend to be more difficult to remove as they are attached to the hair shafts. To stop the head lice from spreading the lice need to be removed before they can lay eggs.

Your child may show signs of having head lice through itching and redness on the scalp, however, some children show no signs at all.

The best way to check for head lice is looking behind the ears, on the nape of the neck and the crown for any white dots attached to the hairs near the scalp.

Treatment is easy and effective. One of the best ways of treating head lice is the wet-combing method using plenty of hair conditioner with a special nit comb, which you can buy from the pharmacy. Your chemist will be able to advise you about the topical medical treatments that are also available to treat the condition.

All of your family will need to be treated and if your child is at a nursery or playgroup then it is advisable to ask the other parents to check their children too.

If one child in a group or family remains untreated the problem will return.


We link the idea of worms with unhygienic homes or bad diets but in fact they are so common – in all types of homes – that nearly half of all children and many adults get them at some time.

Many never even know they have had them.

A child, or adult, gets worms by swallowing their microscopic eggs, which then hatch in the intestines.

The female threadworm then lays its eggs on the skin around the anus which causes itching (the only real symptom of having threadworms). The itching is often worse at night. When the affected area is scratched the eggs are picked up on hands, or under the fingernails and passed into the mouth, which can then repeat the cycle of infection. With a child it can be by thumb sucking or not washing their hands thoroughly.

Treatment is quick and efficient. You can get tablets from the chemist that will eradicate the worms completely. However, the whole family must be treated whether or not they show any symptoms.

The eggs can survive on toys, surfaces, clothes and bedding for 2-3 weeks before spreading to other people, so clothes, bedding and towels must be washed thoroughly at high temperatures.

Eggs can also survive on the coats of family pets, so it is important to brush and comb your pets frequently and make sure they are wormed regularly.

Good hygiene – like hand washing after going to the toilet or before preparing food – goes a long way to preventing a family being affected by worms.


Scabies is a skin condition that is caused by a human parasite (a mite) that burrows its way under the skin. The main symptom of scabies is intense itching that becomes worse at night when the skin temperature is warmer.

It is very infectious and is usually spread by skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the condition. The results are a widespread rash of tiny red, intensely itchy spots that can affect any part of the body, although on children it's more likely to affect the face, neck and scalp as well as the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Sometimes it can be mistaken for eczema. Burrow marks of the scabies mite are small red blotches with a silver coloured line in the skin.

If you think a member of your family has scabies make an appointment to see your doctor. Treatment is by applying a prescribed cream or lotion, which must be used by everyone in your household whether they have an itchy rash or not. Two applications, a week apart are usually advised. It can take a month for the itching to subside after treatment.

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