This New School Year, Be Prepared for Unwanted Surprises

head bugs

Back to school is a great time to reconnect with friends, start new activities and rekindle a love of learning. But sometimes kids arrive home with more than schoolwork, and sometimes some stress.. Here’s what to do if your child also brings home a rash, bug bites or (horrors!) head lice.  

School may have started, but that doesn’t mean outdoor time has ended. Kids still play outdoors after school and many teachers like to take advantage of outdoor activities while the weather’s still nice. In warmer states, kids are outside all year long. That can mean anything from outdoor P.E. to science exploring. Kids may still be running into poison ivy, poison oak or bug bites. And until there’s a freeze, they may still pick up ticks from lawns or playing fields.

“In the case of head lice, any head-to-head contact – such as taking a selfie with a friend – could be enough to cause an infestation,” cautions pharmacist and author Sherry Torkos, BSc, Phm, RPh. “In fact, head lice represent the second most common health issue infecting school-age children in the U.S., next to the common cold.”  Sharing sports helmets or hats used as costumes for school plays can also result in an infestation.

Torkos offers natural solutions to three common outdoor ailments.

  • Itchy skin caused by bug bites, poison ivy or poison oak: “Tea tree oil works well for treating the itch and sting of insect bites. Make your own after-bug paste with a teaspoon of baking soda, ½ teaspoon of water and a few drops of tea tree oil. For poison ivy/oak, oatmeal can soothe skin itching. To make your own bath soak, grind whole oats in a coffee grinder to release their oils. Put a half cup of the ground oats into the bath water. Add a couple drops of lavender.”
  • Head lice: “A lot of parents are concerned about putting pesticides on their children’s heads. And resistance is a big issue, especially now that pyrethroid-resistant ‘super lice” are in almost every state. Clinical research has found that neem oil, which is readily available over-the-counter as Lice-Nil, is 100 percent effective for killing lice and nits. Even super lice! Just one 20-minute application and you’re done.”
  • Ticks. “Be sure to check your child’s scalp for ticks. It’s smart to already have a tick removal kit on hand so that any that you find can be removed immediately. Read the instructions because improper removal of a tick increases your child’s risk of infection. Some kits have containers for sending in the ticks to be tested for diseases such as Lyme. Knowing whether or not a tick carried an infectious disease could provide you with extra peace of mind.”

You may not be able to monitor every minute of your kids’ school day, but you can be prepared to take swift action should they bring home something other than homework.

Sherry Torkos is a pharmacist, author, and health enthusiast with a passion for prevention. Sherry graduated with honors from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1992. Since that time, she has been practicing holistic pharmacy in the Niagara region of Ontario. Her philosophy of practice is to integrate conventional and complementary therapies to optimize health and prevent disease.  Sherry has won several national pharmacy awards for providing excellence in patient care.

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