Itchy? How Head Lice Made This Woman Anaemic

Itchy? How Head Lice Made This Woman Anaemic

An outlandish story.

A 23 year-old woman arrived at a British hospital with signs of fatigue, chest pain, heart palpitations and complaining of light-headedness when she exercised. She told doctors that she had depression, a condition she started to suffer from when her mother died four years back and that she was taking anti-depressants. She also told them that for the past four months, her periods had also stopped.

The woman said she had been eating three meals a day, and so it was unlikely that she was suffering from a lack of nutrients due to a lack of good food.

head-liceThe medical diagnosis? After blood tests showed the woman to be severely anaemic, doctors thought to look in her hair, and found the culprit: a large infestation of head lice.

Her scalp was covered in scratch marks, with the lice were sucking so much blood from the woman’s body as they bit her head, that she was suffering from iron deficiency.

According to a report in the, the poor woman’s blood count showed a haemoglobin level of 2.2 g/L and a haematocrit of 12 per cent, indicating a severe case of iron deficiency. Normal haemoglobin levels the report said are 115 to 160 g/l and normal haematocrit levels are between 38 per cent to 46 per cent.

As a treatment for her condition, the woman was given two units of packed red blood cells, iron tablets and a medicated shampoo for the head lice.

Doctors reported that her symptoms improved after a month of taking the supplements and receiving psychological therapy.

k2-_bf8785b2-5d49-4e4f-b6e6-f6ff54eb6711.v1Crazy? As odd as this case sounds, it turns out that it isn’t the first time this has happened in history. Apparently,  it can be a common occurrence among those who suffer from severe head lice, including children, homeless patients, and psychiatric patients.

Some of the facts to know:

Head lice, or Pediculus humanus capitis, is a parasite that lives exclusively on human blood. Other forms of lice live on other mammals and birds, and on other parts of the human body.

Head lice are wingless and cannot fly, and have short stumpy legs that prevent them from jumping, and so they are spread from head-to-head contact, or through the sharing of hats, clothing or other items that can carry the bugs, as the lice can live off the head for up to 48 hours.

Head lice differ from body lice in that they don’t carry and spread disease-something which body lice is dangerously known to do.

It’s reported that girls are two to four times more frequently infested with lice than boys and between 6 and 12 million people, mainly children, are treated for head lice each year in the United States alone. Children between the ages of 4 and 14 years of age are the most frequently hit.

How to get rid of it?

Over-the-counter shampoos containing pyrethrin (Rid, others) or permethrin (Nix) are usually the first option used to combat head lice. In order to be effective though, you need to follow the intructions very closely.

The unfortunate thing is that in some geographic areas, head lice have become resistant to these shampoos and they won’t work. If this is the case for you, see your doctor and they can prescribe something different.









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