Pediculosis or Lice is a contagious, animal, parasitic affection, characterized by the presence of pediculi in the skin and scratch marks of the sufferer ensuing from the annoying itching. There are a number of varieties classified according to the peculiar parasite and its location. They all cause great discomfort and itching.
The Pediculosis Capitis, or head louse, is found in the scalp, and is a long, oval body with six legs furnished with nails; it has an oval head with two prominent eyes and two horns. The ova or nits are small whitish bodies closely glued to the hair and look like small pieces of dandruff. One or two are deposited on a hair. They occur for the most part in poorly nourished children brought up under bad hygienic surroundings, and thence communicated to others. They cause extreme itching and scratching, so that often the irritation is unbearable and the sticky serum of the blood mats together the hair, forming crusts. Sleep is often interfered with and ill health results. (See Fig. 81.)
Pediculosis Corporis, or body louse, is generally the property of the clothing; it is somewhat larger than the head louse and deposits its eggs in the seams of the clothing, remaining on the body only long enough to gain sustenance. The young are hatched in five or six days. The louse reproduces again in occur on adults and produce the same lesions as the other varieties. They are generally the result of promiscuous sexual intercourse.
Pediculosis Pubis, or crablouse, is a smaller, shorter, stouter parasite than the two preceding, and attacks the pubes particularly, but is also found in the axillae and over the eyelashes and beard of the male. They may be seen clinging closely to the skin with remarkable tenacity. They occur on adults and produce the same lesions as the other varieties they generally the result of sexual intercourse.
Treatment. The main object in the treatment of these filthy diseases is the destruction of the parasite. The lesions they produce disappear with the disappearance of the animal. It need hardly be said that strict cleanliness of person is a sine qua non. The remedies usually employed in their extermination are the mercurials, sulphur, carbolic acid, tobacco, etc.
In case of the head louse the most efficacious method of treatment consists in saturating the head over night with petroleum and washing off with soap in the morning. In young children the hair may be cut to get rid the more easily of the nits but this is not necessary. The applications of petroleum may have to be repeated several times and the hair frequently washed with soft soap, soda washes, vinegar, etc., to get iid of the nits. If the louse be of the body variety the treatment must be directed to the clothing, which is to be changed often and either boiled or baked. This process is to be repeated until no more parasites are found. The itching of the body is best allayed by carbolic acid lotions (one teaspoonful to pint of water).
The crablouse is best treated by the well-known mercurial ointment, or blue ointment, and is to be washed off with soap and water each morning. It must be persisted in till no more crabs are found and no further itching is noticed
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