How To Prevent Parasitic Infections

Hopefully you can prevent or get rid of contact with ticks, lice and scabies before you get an infection.
Hopefully you can prevent or get rid of contact with ticks, lice and scabies before you get an infection.
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In life, the little things do matter. A parasite that attaches itself to your skin or clothing is certainly one of those little things that will make a big impression on your priority list. Because body lice, scabies, and ticks take time and patience to evict, prevention is the best medicine. In this article, we will show you hot to avoid those microscopic invaders, including:

How to Get Rid of Body Lice

In bedding, body hair, and in the seams and folds of clothing is where body lice lives because your body heat enables the eggs to hatch. Body lice, or Pediculus humanus humanus, spreads through direct contact between people, or through contact with bedding, clothing or anywhere else this parasite can survive. A lice-killing shampoo or lotion applied over the entire body will kill body lice, but women who are pregnant or breast-feeding shouldn't necessarily use these products.

Scabies Treatment

Scabies, an infestation of a microscopic mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei, spreads through skin contact between people or when they share towels, bedding, or clothing. The infection produces pimple-like bumps or a skin rash, and itching that becomes seemingly unbearable at night. You can fight scabies with prescription lotions, though if you're allergic to the mite, the itching might continue for days, or a few weeks.

How to Get Rid of Ticks

Ticks prefer attaching to the skin of animals or reptiles to suck on their host's blood, but they will settle for humans too. These tiny brown mites are initially as small as a pencil tip and difficult to see, yet deer ticks in particular, which are smaller than dog ticks, can transmit diseases including Lyme disease. If you don't treat them, ticks can lead to infections in the heart, joints and even the nervous system. Ticks can be found in every state, but are particularly common in New England, parts of the Midwest and northern California.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Get Rid of Body Lice

Body lice lay their eggs on bedding, and they will need to washed in hot water to end the infestation.
Body lice lay their eggs on bedding, and they will need to washed in hot water to end the infestation.
Publications International, Ltd.

Body lice lay their eggs on bedding, on body hair, and in the seams and folds of clothing where body heat enables the eggs to hatch. Because they can't fly or walk, body lice are spread through direct contact with infected people or through contact with bedding, furniture, or other places where the insects have taken up residence. Body lice cause an itchy rash that can turn into bacteria-infected sores.

You can treat body lice infestations by applying a lice-killing shampoo or lotion to your entire body. However, you should check with your physician before using such a product if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Infected people should bathe in hot water, change into freshly laundered clothes, and wash all infested linens and towels in hot water.

The Culprit

Body lice (Pediculus humanus humanus) are parasitic insects that live in clothing and feed on a person's blood. They are different from head lice.

Who's at Risk?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, body lice infestations in the United States are found primarily in homeless, transient people who don't have access to changes of clothes or bathing facilities. Body lice are more common in colder areas where people wear more clothes and in places where war, economic conditions, or other factors may prohibit regular laundering of clothing.

Defensive Measures

Body lice can carry diseases such as trench fever and epidemic typhus, but outbreaks are relatively rare. Still, it's a good idea to put up your best defense against these tiny troublemakers:

  • Avoid sharing clothes and bedding and keep in mind that body lice can survive for several days on clothing and other items.
  • Avoid close, prolonged contact with an infested person.
  • Bathe in hot water and use a prescription or nonprescription shampoo or lotion to control lice.
  • Wash clothes, linens, and towels in hot water, and either dry them using heat or dry-clean them.

Scabies thrives on skin-to-skin contact between people, or the sharing of towels, bedding, or clothing. You'll learn more about this infection in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Scabies Treatment

Publications International, Ltd.                                      Scabies can be spread through                              the sharing of towels.
Publications International, Ltd. Scabies can be spread through the sharing of towels.

Scabies spreads through direct, prolonged skin-to-skin contact or through the sharing of towels, bedding, or clothing. The infestation produces pimplelike bumps or a rash in skin folds near the breasts and on wrists, elbows, knees, shoulder blades, the penis, and the areas between the fingers.

A case of scabies can cause intense itching that can be unbearable at night, and scratching can lead to sores that sometimes become infected with bacteria. Prescription lotions will successfully treat scabies, but itching (in part due to an allergy to the mite, alive or dead) might continue for as long as three weeks.

The Culprit

An infestation of a microscopic mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei that burrows in the skin causes scabies. Most cases of scabies are due to the presence of just a few (perhaps ten to 15) mites.

Who's at Risk?

Scabies affects people of all ages and socioeconomic levels, but it spreads primarily in crowded conditions where people have ongoing skin-to-skin contact. People in child-care facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals, for example, are at increased risk.

In addition, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems may contract a severe form of scabies, called Norwegian scabies or crusted scabies, which is an infestation with thousands of mites and is much more easily transmitted to others.

Defensive Measures

Preventing scabies is as simple as avoiding close body contact with others who are infested. Another good rule of thumb is to avoid sharing clothing, bed linens, or towels. If in doubt, wash clothes and linens in hot water and dry them on high heat, or press them with a hot iron to kill the mites and their eggs. Wash surfaces such as tables, chairs, and floors, and vacuum all rugs. It's also a good idea to put bedding and stuffed animals in airtight plastic bags for more than 72 hours to starve the little buggers to death. According to findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine, mites do not survive more than three days once away from the human body.

Read next about another blood-sucking parasite called ticks, which are found in every state but are most common in New England, parts of the Midwest, and northern California.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Get Rid of Ticks

When working outside, it's best to stay as covered as possible to avoid ticks.
When working outside, it's best to stay as covered as possible to avoid ticks.
Publications International, Ltd.

A tick attaches itself to the skin of a human, animal, or reptile and feeds on the host's blood. Each kind of tick usually has a favorite host, and humans are fed on in the absence of a tick's favorite kind of blood.

The tick may not be found until after it has enlarged from feeding on your blood, which could take several days.

The immature form of the deer tick is quite small (about the size of a pencil tip) and hard to see, even after it feeds. Despite their small stature, deer ticks transmit diseases, including Lyme disease, that can cause big problems. If left untreated, Lyme disease can spread infection to the heart, joints, and nervous system. The disease has hit every state, but it is particularly common in New England, parts of the Midwest, and northern California.

Dog ticks are larger and more noticeable than deer ticks; the adults often get as large as one-half inch in length and can enlarge to the size of a marble if left alone. As their name suggests, dog ticks frequently live on the family pet, latching on to ears and other succulent areas. Dog ticks also carry diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a bacterial infection characterized by fever, rash, and nausea. If left untreated, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be fatal.

The Culprit

Ticks are tiny brown mites that, like spiders, are arachnids. Hundreds of different kinds of ticks exist, but dog ticks and deer ticks are very prevalent in the United States.

Who's at Risk?

Ticks can hitch an unwelcome ride on anyone, but people who spend time outdoors in tall grasses or wooded areas are at greater risk. Being in prolonged, close contact with pets that may be infested with ticks also makes you vulnerable. Always check children for ticks after they spend time in high-risk outdoor areas.

Defensive Measures

There's no need to board up the windows and doors and shut yourself in -- you can still enjoy the great outdoors despite its smallest inhabitants. You just need to take a few precautions to ensure you don't become a host for these petite parasites:

  • Check your pets for ticks if they spend time outside. You should also add a flea and tick collar or other pest deterrent to your pet's hygiene regimen. Your veterinarian can suggest safe and effective products.
  • If you are going to walk or hike, stay on a trail rather than venturing through tall grasses, trees with low branches, or piles of dry leaves. Also, stay in areas that get plenty of sun and don't sit directly on the ground.
  • Wear long sleeves and light-colored long pants when outside. The extra coverage deters ticks from crawling onto skin, and lighter colors help you see the little bloodsuckers.
  • Consider tucking your pant legs into your socks so ticks can't crawl inside. If you are in an area you suspect may be infested with ticks, wear a hat.
  • Some experts suggest using a bug spray that contains 10 percent DEET before going into high-risk outdoor areas. Just be sure to wash off the bug spray when you go inside. Although DEET is very effective against mosquitoes, it doesn't have the same success rate when it comes to ticks.
  • When you return from walking or hiking, check your clothing and skin for ticks. Run your fingers over your skin and through your hair, and be sure to check your ears, underarms, and groin.

If a tick is latched on to your skin, grab some tweezers and a small vial, such as a film container or small glass bottle. Using the tweezers, grasp the tick as close to its imbedded head as possible, then slowly pull it straight out of the skin. Put the tick in the vial so your physician can identify the species.

Some authorities might recommend preventative antibiotics based on the geographic area where the tick was acquired and the kind of tick identified. If done correctly, the tick will usually still be alive after you pull it out of the skin, so be sure the container is clsed properly. Wash your hands and watch the bite area for unusual redness or swelling.

Now that you've read about parasitic infections including body lice, scabies, and ticks, do yourself a favor and take the necessary steps to prevent acquiring these infections.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laurie L. Dove is an award winning Kansas-based journalist and author whose work has been published internationally. A dedicated consumer advocate, Dove specializes in writing about health, parenting, fitness and travel. An active member of the National Federation of Press Women, Dove also is the former owner of a parenting magazine and a weekly newspaper.

ABOUT THE CONSULTANT:

Dr. Larry Lutwick is a Professor of Medicine at the State University of New York - Downstate Medical School in Brooklyn, New York and Director of Infectious Diseases, Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Health Care System, Brooklyn Campus. He is also Bacterial Diseases Moderator for the real time online infectious diseases surveillance system, Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED-mail) and has authored more than 100 medical articles and 15 book chapters. He has edited two books on infectious diseases.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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