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Skin Problems

Lice and Scabies

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Lice are tiny, white, wingless insects that may live on the skin, hair, or clothing. They feed by biting the skin and sucking blood. The bites itch and may cause an allergic rash. Head lice live in the hair on the head; body lice live on clothing; and pubic lice (also called crabs) live in the groin, underarms, and eyelashes.

Lice are spread by close physical contact or contact with the clothing, bedding, brushes, or combs of an infected person. Pubic lice can be spread through sexual contact.

Scabies are tiny mites that burrow under the skin and lay eggs. This burrowing causes a rash that itches intensely. Scabies are often found between folds of skin on the fingers and toes, wrists, underarms, and groin. The scabies mites are spread through close contact with an infected person, such as sleeping in the same bed. Scabies are usually treated with a medication that is applied over the entire body and left on overnight. Itching may last for several weeks after treatment.


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Be alert for signs of lice: itching and lice or tiny eggs (nits) attached to the hair shafts of the head. Prompt treatment can help prevent spreading lice to others.

People who have lice or scabies should avoid close contact with others to prevent spreading the insects or mites that cause these conditions.

Home Treatment

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  • Nix and RID are nonprescription medications for lice. Follow the manufacturer's directions for use exactly. For head lice, comb the hair well with a fine-toothed comb after treatment to remove all nits.

  • On the day you start treatment, wash all dirty clothing, bedding, and towels in hot water to help get rid of lice, nits, and mites. Iron things that cannot be washed.

  • Some schools have a "no nits" policy stating that children may not return to school until they are free of lice nits. Children who have been treated for scabies can return to school after treatment is completed.

  • Contact your pharmacist, local health unit, or public health office for more information about treatment and preventing reinfestation.

When to Call a Health Professional

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Call if treatment with nonprescription medication is not successful. Stronger prescription drugs are available.


Birthmarks are relatively common. Those that are pigmented generally do not go away. Those due to blood vessels usually fade as the child grows.

Salmon patches ("angel kisses") are light pink birthmarks that may appear on the upper lip, eyelids, forehead, and back of the neck. They usually fade within a few months.

Strawberry birthmarks are soft, red lumps formed by clusters of blood vessels. They may be present at birth or appear during the first few months. They may grow for up to 6 months, stabilize for a short time, and then usually begin to recede and fade. Sixty percent are gone by age 5; nearly all disappear by age 9. No treatment is necessary unless they continue to grow.

Port-wine stains are light pink or wine-coloured birthmarks that appear most often on the head and face. They are permanent, become darker as the child grows, and may need to be treated by a dermatologist to stop them from expanding.

Report any changes in birthmarks to your health professional. Birthmarks need to be removed if they interfere with breathing or vision, or if they disfigure the face. If surgery is desired for cosmetic reasons, it is best to talk with your health professional about the best timing for surgery.


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