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HUMAN SKIN PARASITES

Lice infestation on the human body (also known as pediculosis) is very common. Cases number in the hundreds of millions worldwide. While body lice can occasionally cause significant illness (typhus, relapsing fever and trench fever), a lice infestation is generally more of an itchy and embarrassing experience than a serious medical problem. There are many types of lice infections and each is caused by a unique parasite.

To remove lice and other parasites from the home meticulous cleaning of surfaces, daily vacuuming of carpets and upholstery and very hot washing of clothes, bedding and towels is required as most of them can survive at least 1 or 2 days without feeding on human blood.

Externally, lemon thyme has antiseptic properties which makes it a useful mouthwash and cleansing wash for the skin. It will destroy fungal infections such as athlete's foot and skin parasites such as scabies, crabs and lice. 

Lice hate garlic, so consuming plenty a lot of garlic during the treatment process will make them less likely to reattach.

NOTE: This will not help to get rid of them and is only a preventative measure against re-infestation.

HEAD LICE (Pediculus humanus capitis)

Head lice are the most common infestation and favours no particular part of society. It is more commonly associated with poverty, overcrowding and poor hygiene which actually does not affect transmission of head lice as they are more easily caught by clean hair as greasy dirty hair is more difficult for them to cling too.

It is important to wash bedding after treatment with head lice.

 

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Head lice

Nature cures treatment for head lice

Pour a strong tea made from the crushed seeds of parsley steeped in hot water for ten minutes, onto the hair, work in with the fingers to cover all hair. Put a shower cap on and leave in for 30 to 45 minutes to kill the head lice.

Then add a few drops of the following essential oils to a saucer of olive oil. Massage well into the scalp, wrap hair in a hot towel and leave for at least 10 minutes.

Fine tooth lice comb

Then use a large wide toothed comb to detangle hair.

Then use a fine toothed lice comb over a white sheet of paper to ensure that all eggs or newly-hatched lice are removed.

Shampoo and dry as normal.

Lice eggs may take 7 to 10 days to hatch, so retreat each day until no more dead lice or eggs fall on to the white sheet of paper when combing.

If it is suspected there are lice in eyebrows or eyelashes, they can  be coated with petroleum jelly or cold pressed coconut oil; then rinsed off and repeat several times daily.

BODY LICE (Pediculus humanus corporis)

Body lice

Body lice are infestations of small blood-sucking wingless insects that live on the body of infested humans and in their clothing or bedding, particularly the seams. They can spread from person to person and are normally associated with crowded and unhygienic living conditions, particularly in conditions of social upheaval such as natural disasters or wartime.

Very often body lice are clearly visible in the beard, eyelashes, or eye brows. These parasites bite the skin and then feed on small amounts of blood which causes persistent scratching and itching They produce small eggs called nits which are as tiny as dandruff flakes. Nits reproduce rapidly once they hatch into even more lice.

Lice infestation is a uniquely human experience and they do not jump or fly from host to host. They cannot be transmitted via animals but may be transferred by person to person via direct contact and inanimate objects such as clothes, combs, upholstery and bedding as they can live for 1 or 2 days without feeding on human blood.

Vagabond's disease

In overcrowded, unhygienic conditions where there is no opportunity to wash and launder clothing on a regular basis body lice (unlike head lice), can be responsible for the spread of epidemic infections such as epidemic typhus. If you have skin rashes or additional infections caused by excessive scratching, see a doctor. “Vagabond’s disease” is a condition caused by an infestation of lice for a significant period of time. The condition consists of darkening and hardening of the skin in areas heavily bitten, usually the mid-section of the body. Epidemics of louse-borne relapsing fever and typhus have been caused by body lice.

The characteristics of a body louse bite include:

  • A tiny red dot initially appears.

  • The red dot rises into a small cyst-like lump or papule.

  • The area becomes inflamed.

  • The bite causes irritation and severe itching.

  • Secondary infection resulting from the continuous scratching.

Body lice are visible to the naked eye and occasionally one can be seen crawling or feeding on the skin or crawling lice may be noticed in the seams of clothing or bedding.

Nature cures treatment for body lice

  • Increase personal hygiene, bathing or showering regularly (at least every other day).

  • Change and launder clothes, especially underwear daily or dispose of affected clothing.

  • Launder clothing and blankets recently used by an infested person in hot water (greater than 70ºC).

  • Preferably tumble dry or iron clothes with all seams turned outwards.

  • If clothes cannot be laundered or dry cleaned iron them with attention to seams or seal them in a plastic bag for a month.

  • Avoid close contact with infested persons, their clothing and bedding.

  • Thoroughly vacuum mattresses paying attention to seams, creases and under buttons.

  • To avoid bringing body lice into the home check the seams of any second-hand clothing or bedding for the presence of body lice.

Externally, lemon thyme has antiseptic properties which makes it a useful mouthwash and cleansing wash for the skin. It will destroy fungal infections such as athlete's foot and skin parasites such as scabies, crabs and lice. 

Mashua has properties that can kill lice.

PUBIC LICE (Pediculosis pubis)

Pubic lice

Pubic lice are parasitic insects found primarily in the pubic or genital area of humans. Pubic lice infestation is found worldwide and occurs in all races, ethnic groups, and levels of society.

  • Nit: Nits are lice eggs. They can be hard to see and are found firmly attached to the hair shaft. They are oval and usually yellow to white. Pubic lice nits take about 6-10 days to hatch.

  • Nymph: The nymph is an immature louse that hatches from the nit (egg). A nymph looks like an adult pubic louse but it is smaller. Pubic lice nymphs take about 2-3 weeks after hatching to mature into adults capable of reproducing. To live, a nymph must feed on blood.

  • Adult: The adult pubic louse resembles a miniature crab when viewed through a strong magnifying glass.

Pubic lice have six legs; their two front legs are very large and look like the pincher claws of a crab. This is how they got the nickname "crabs." They are tan to grey or white in colour. Females lay nits and are usually larger than males. To live, lice must feed on blood. If the louse falls off a person, it dies within 1-2 days.

They usually are found in the genital area on pubic hair; but they may occasionally be found on other coarse body hair, such as hair on the legs, armpits, moustache, beard, eyebrows, or eyelashes. Pubic lice on the eyebrows or eyelashes of children may be a sign of sexual exposure or abuse. Lice found on the head are generally head lice, not pubic lice. They can be caught by sharing contaminated towels, bedding or clothing.

The main symptoms of infection are itching and burning of the pubic area. The itching may spread as the pubic lice move to other moist areas of the body such as the armpit. For many people the itching is worse at night. Intense or prolonged scratching may lead to skin injuries that may become infected by bacteria. If there is a large area of redness or pus in the area a skin infection may have developed. Other signs of a pubic infection include a fever, burning during urination or a genital discharge.

Nature cures treatment for pubic lice

Cover the infected area with olive or vegetable oil, tea tree oil or coconut oil. Leave on for around 30 minutes then use a fine toothed comb to remove the suffocated lice.

Wash all bedding and clothes on a hot wash then tumble dry or iron on hot to kill any remaining lice.

Consume foods rich in yeast and garlic. As these foods metabolize, they make the skin excrete substances that repel lice and make them want to leave the body. While this does not fully remove the problem, it can thin out the number of lice infestation to make the condition easier to manage.

The following herbs contain natural insecticidal properties and act as an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic:

These three herbs, together with the following aromatic therapeutic ingredients, have the ability to eliminate external parasites including pubic lice and prevent re-infestation.

Externally, lemon thyme has antiseptic properties which makes it a useful mouthwash and cleansing wash for the skin. It will destroy fungal infections such as athlete's foot and skin parasites such as scabies, crabs and lice.

NOTE: Rosemary is not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women or those with high blood pressure.

BEDBUGS (Cimex lectularius)

Bedbugs

Bedbugs are small blood-sucking insects that can live in cracks and crevices in and around the bed. Attracted by body heat and carbon dioxide, they crawl out at night to bite exposed skin and feed on human blood, just as mosquitoes do. Not everyone develops a skin reaction to bedbug bites, but some people will develop itchy red bumps one to nine days later, usually on the face, neck, hand or arm. These are often mistaken for mosquito bites, but while mosquito bites tend to be random in pattern, bedbug bites more often occur in straight lines.

The media has recently reported a huge increase in the number of bedbug infestations around the world, especially in developed countries and it is likely that tourists and an increasing resistance to insecticides are the main reasons for this. Bedbugs are not dangerous. They do not transmit any human diseases and most people do not develop any serious skin reaction. However, their presence can be upsetting and stressful.

Adult bedbugs look like lentils and are visible to the naked eye. They are oval-shaped, flat and reddish-brown and up to 5 mm long.

Females lay 200-500 eggs over a two-month period. These white specks stick to surfaces and are very difficult to spot. They hatch to form tiny straw-coloured insects that take about six to eight weeks to grow into adults.

Bedbugs are often more red in colour after feeding. As they grow, they shed their skin. This looks like mottled brown shells on the mattress. Bedbugs need to feed on blood to be able to mature, but they are very resilient. They are not attracted to dirt, so a bedbug infestation is not a sign of an unclean home.

Bedbugs are attracted by warmth, and they generally feed during the night, often just before dawn. They tend to feed every five to 10 days, though they can survive without feeding for several months. Adults can survive for up to a year without feeding. Bedbugs pierce the skin and inject saliva which contains anaesthetics and anticoagulants into the host which often make their bites painless initially.

After feeding on the host's blood for several minutes, bedbugs will retreat to their hiding place. They will generally try to remain within close range of their warm-blooded host. Affected individuals may feel and see the consequences of the bedbug bite sometime afterward. Though bedbug transmission of human diseases is theoretically possible, it has not yet been definitively established.

Signs of bedbugs

  • Look for any unexplained skin rash or itchy bump (although not everyone develops this).

  • Look out for black spots on the mattress. This could be their dried faeces.

  • Look for mottled shells that bedbugs may have shed.

  • Check bed sheets for blood spots where you may have rolled over and squashed a bug after it had fed.

  • Inspect all the crevices and joints of the mattress and furniture using a torch and see if you can spot any bugs.

Because their bodies are flat, bedbugs can squeeze into the smallest crevice or crack, such as a mattress seam or the joints of a bed frame. This can make them very difficult to spot. They tend to prefer fabric or wood over plastic and metal, and often hide near to where you sleep, for example under the mattress or along the headboard. However, they are willing to travel several feet if necessary to reach you, so they can also be found away from the bed in other furniture, along the edges of carpets and even behind mirrors or inside smoke alarms. In fact, they can be found in almost any place in the bedroom where they will not be disturbed.

 

Once introduced into the home, bedbugs can spread easily from room to room. They do not fly or jump, but can crawl quickly. They can soon spread within a building by getting through holes in walls or pipes, and can potentially invade blocks of flats, hotels or hospitals. The bugs can also be transported in luggage, clothing, furniture and bedding from one building to the next. This makes is easy for tourists and commuters to unknowingly spread bedbugs.

Ten steps to eliminate bed bugs

1. Remove all bedding - sheets, pillow cases, blankets, duvets, bed liners and mattress covers. Wash everything in extremely hot water and dry in a dryer. Do NOT put back on the bed until the entire bedroom (or house, if they are everywhere) has been cleaned.

2. Any other fabric-type object in the bedroom, or other rooms in the house, should be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner using the hose, then put into plastic bags, sealed with tape and left for three days. This kills any remaining bed bugs. Items to do this to include soft toys, computer bags, pillows etc.

3. Inspect all cupboards and drawers. If there are bed bugs or bed bug eggs in cupboards and drawers, take out all your clothing and wash that in hot water too.

4. Vacuum the whole room or house and use a vacuum hose in the nooks and crannies, paying particular attention to cracks and openings in the wall. Throw away contents of the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag as afterwards.

5. If there are any cracks or openings in walls, particularly at light sockets, outlet areas etc. use decorators putty to completely close the holes. This will stop any more bed bugs getting into the room and remove hiding places.

6. Check the bed and mattress for bed bugs. It is likely that there is an infestation in the bed or in the box springs. It is incredibly difficult to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress. The only way is to buy a plastic mattress cover. Leave the zipped up cover on for a least a year. A year is how long the life cycle of bed bugs is.

7. Throw out the pillows in sealed plastic bags and buy new ones.

8. Now, clean the entire room or house with a natural cleaner. See the Hygiene, Toxins and Health page to find out how to make toxin free cleaners. Clean every surface, behind every piece of furniture, inside every cupboard and drawer, along the skirting boards, light fixtures and wall sockets - basically everything in the house.

9. Once everything is clean, you can safely put back all of your clothes and bedding etc.

10. Repeat everything on this cleaning list again in 10 days, again in another 10 days, and one more time in a third 10 days. Bed bugs are very difficult to eliminate, but if you make sure you keep cleaning (and follow all the steps), you should be able to get rid of them naturally within a 30 day period.

CHIGGERS (Prostigmata, harvest mites, scrub mites)

Chiggers

Chiggers can be caught from woods or an open field in spring, summer or autumn and leave red, itchy bumps on the skin especially around the waistband or on the ankles. Chiggers are the larvae of mites belonging to the suborder prostigmata. Like ticks and spiders, mites go through three biological stages in their life cycle: They begin as eggs, hatch as larvae, develop into nymphs and finally become adults. Nymph and adult harvest mites feed mostly on plant life and don't bother people or other mammals, but in the larval stage, many of the species in the prostigmata suborder are parasitic.

After a parasitic chigger hatches, it finds a good position on tall grass or other vegetation so it can spring onto a passing animal. When it finds an animal, it attaches to the animal to gather the protein it needs to grow into the nymph stage. They do not burrow under the skin nor do they feed on animal blood. They actually feed on the fluids in skin cells. To get the fluids, they attach themselves to a skin pore or hair follicle and inject a digestive enzyme that ruptures the cells. The enzyme also hardens the surrounding skin tissue, forming a sort of straw for sucking the skin cell fluids. The whole process irritates the skin, causing an itchy red bump that continues to cause discomfort for several days.

Chiggers are only about 1/50th of an inch (0.5 mm) in diameter and so are too small to be seen with the naked eye. This invisibility is the reason so many people believe chiggers burrow under the skin. Chiggers can live in any number of environments, but they are especially concentrated in damp areas with a lot of vegetation. They are attracted to concealed, moist conditions on hosts, too, so they tend to attach to skin under tight clothing, such as socks and underwear, or in concealed areas of the body, such as the groin and the armpits.

One way to decrease the chance of chigger bites is to wear loose clothing when in woodlands or other infested areas. Also take a shower upon returning from an outdoor expedition, to remove any chiggers before they attach to the skin. Chigger bites can get infected so the irritated area must be kept clean and refrain as much as possible from scratching. In some parts of the world, chiggers may pose a more serious threat. In some areas of Asia for example, certain chigger species carry the disease scrub typhus. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, check an insect and spider field guide to find out what sort of chiggers are in your area.

SCABIES (Sarcoptes scabiei)

Scabies rash

Scabies is a very contagious skin condition that is caused by a mite that is so small it can only be seen with a magnifying glass or under a microscope. The mite cannot live more than three days without a human host, but it can survive up to a month when living on a human. The mite also lays eggs in human skin which hatch and grow into adult mites. This means that symptoms of the condition can last for months or even years.

The female insect digs into the skin where she lays 1 - 3 eggs daily. If untreated, the female will continue to lay eggs for about five weeks. A very small, hard to see, zigzag blister usually marks the trail of the insect as she lays her eggs. Common locations for scabies are on the sides of fingers, between the fingers, on the backs of the hands, on the wrists, heels, elbows, armpits, inner thighs and around the waist.

The rash caused by bites from the scabies mite is extremely itchy and can be subtle, and sometimes scabies is hard to diagnose. The mite is spread from person to person by close contact. Animals can harbour a similar mite, but when the animal mite is passed to people, it cannot reproduce and dies within a few days.

Scabies affect everyone regardless of age, gender, race, social class, or personal-hygiene habits. However, a major risk factor is being a household member or sexual partner of an affected individual. Scabies is also common in congested areas, such as nursing homes and hospitals, where it can spread widely. In people who have poor immune systems or who are malnourished, scabies can cause a syndrome called "crusted scabies" or "Norwegian scabies," which causes skin thickening and a scaly rash.

Other conditions are sometimes confused with scabies. The scabies mite has no relation to body lice, although the treatment of the resulting skin disease is sometimes the same. Scabies is also different from bedbug bites. In contrast to scabies, bedbugs are visible to the naked eye and can live for long periods of time without feeding. Chiggers are a type of mite that can feed off human blood, but unlike scabies, they are acquired through contact with vegetation and feed for only a few days. Less commonly, the rashes of the following skin disorders may be confused with scabies:

Nature cures treatment for scabies

Cnidium monnieri seed is a Chinese herb which can treat scabies.

Coconut oil: Mix pure cold-pressed coconut oil with lemongrass to apply as a liniment.

Lemon thyme has antiseptic properties which makes it a useful mouthwash and cleansing wash for the skin. It will destroy fungal infections such as athlete's foot and skin parasites such as scabies, crabs and lice. Make a tea by steeping crushed thyme leaves in hot water for 20 minutes then straining and using as a wash.

Neem leaves: Apply neem paste to the affected areas. Neem leaves contains over 100 potent bio-active ingredients, which can relieve the blisters and itchy bumps associated with scabies. Add 3 large handfuls of neem leaves to 1 pint of water in a blender until the mixture turns into a paste. Add more water or leaves, if necessary. Massage the mixture into the affected areas (include surrounding areas), and leave on for one hour. Without using soap, rinse off and pat dry.

Tamanu oil: Apply and massage tamanu oil to the affected areas for one 30 minutes. Tamanu oil possesses potent anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties, making it effective on scabies and other skin conditions. It can help reduce the intense itching associated with scabies.

Tea tree oil: Massage and leave tea tree oil on affected areas for 30 minutes. Tea tree oil helps reduce bumps while healing inflammation and redness. It also contains terpineol, which helps prevent infections caused by scratching.

Turmeric: Make a paste with 10 tablespoons of turmeric powder, 227 g (8 oz) flour and 284 ml (1/2 pint) of milk stirred together. Apply this mixture to affected areas for 30 minutes, then wash off afterwards.

To prevent a re-infestation of scabies. Thoroughly wash all personal items, including bedding, clothing and towels in hot water. Spray the inside of shoes, drawers and cupboards with apple cider vinegar. The high acidity will kill the scabies mites and their eggs, while eliminating any bad odour.

See also Parasites and Worms

"Nature cures not the physician..." Hippocrates 460 BC

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