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Beware: Head lice torment children

Beware: Head lice torment children

Head lice are flat, wingless insects. Most species are black or dark brown. They thrive in most climates but are more prevalent in hot regions. Lice dislike cold  temperatures such as those prevailing in Lushoto and Iringa. They normally attach themselves to the bases of hair and lay large numbers of eggs that can be seen as tiny white or brown ovals glued firmly to the hair close to the scalp.

Head lice are widespread in Tanzania with more pronounced cases in rural villages where hygiene is mostly lacking. Head lice have a penchant for attacking children with long, unkempt, dirty hair. But some species flourish in clean, well-maintained hair. Head lice can be caught by direct contact or by sharing combs, brushes and hats. In some cases, whole families are often attacked by lice.

A head infection of lice does not often cause symptoms. When it does, the main symptom is itchiness. Parents should inspect the head of a child who constantly scratches his scalp. It is possible to see the lice and nits in the hair, especially behind the ears. Head lice are humorously referred to as head tenants by students in boarding schools. There are several ways to deal with head lice.

After washing a child’s hair, apply a conditioner and comb it thoroughly with a fine-toothed comb. The lice and nits will be caught on the comb. You will have to repeat this for several days to catch all the lice and nits. Comb the child’s hair daily to check for lice. When I was growing up in a family of twelve siblings in the sixties, in Mara Region, our mother used to shave our heads clean to get rid of lice.

Head lice are to blame for the cries of some toddlers. I must mention here that insecticides should never be applied on the head of a child to kill lice. Never! Now let us examine the other reasons behind some of the cries of infants and toddlers. We start with the stark fact that all babies cry. A baby who does not cry must have a frightening mental impairment. Personally, I have never seen a baby who never cries. However, child psychologists cite examples in their books.

For babies, crying is the main language for communicating their needs. About ten per cent of babies cry excessively -- more than three hours in a day. Colic (a common pain in babies’ tummies) may cause excessive crying in the first three months. Parents should be aware that it may not be possible to cure colic completely. However, the abdominal pain eases as the baby grows older.

A baby’s cries tell his parents how he feels. It is a way of communication with his parents. At first parents may not know what to do to soothe and reassure the crying baby. But they start getting it right as the weeks go by. A normal, healthy baby cries between one and three hours a day. Parents  normally start to notice and pick out different types of crying in their babies by the time they are ten  to 14 days old. Hunger, pain and boredom are communicated with different cries as parents may soon notice.

Babies’ cries are meant to catch the attention of parents and are designed to affect them so they are quick to find out what is up. Babies never cry to wind their parents up. Some parents believe that by responding promptly to a baby’s cry you set bad habits in him or spoil him. This is not the case. It is virtually impossible to spoil a newborn -- a hapless being who is yet to comprehend the world around him.

So, the quicker you respond to a baby’s cries in the early days, the more secure the baby feels. Other reasons for babies’ cries include: feeling too hot or too cold; colic or wind; needing a nappy change; feeling bored and wanting company and being upset and wanting a cuddle. Babies also cry when over- stimulated.

Of course, depending on the environment, there could be more reasons. Some babies cry more than others. Reasons why include temperament for, each baby is different. Some will be fussier than others and may seem to cry more, often right from birth. Jumpy babies may strongly protest about being too hot or too cold or might not like being bathed or dressed. Some may be very sensitive to touch or to changes.  Babies who were born prematurely or those who have had to be in special care may cry incessantly.

Some babies get worried when parents, especially their mother, are out of sight. They may get more and more worried about being separate from parents. Your baby can start to feel afraid for no clear reason. The  sound of music or the cries of a pet can frighten him.

spmwita@yahoo.com Phone: 0787 44 66 22;




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