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How to Get Rid of 'Kuto' (Head Lice) Once and for All
PHOTO BY aldia.com
To read this story in Tagalog, click here.
  • In the Philippines, the problem of head lice is most common in children 4 to 14 years old, according to the Philippine Council for Health and Research Development. Lice are already annoying and stubborn enough. But they also carry the stigma that only dirty, unhygienic kids get them. Remember, everyone with a head of hair is susceptible to kuto. 

    Kuto, or head lice, is a common problem in childhood especially during the summer when kids come out to play. They live on the scalp, and their bites irritate the scalp and make it itchy (scratching can lead to infection). Though lice are crawling bugs and do not hop or fly, they can easily spread through direct contact. The bug is more than capable of transferring from one head to another as long as it’s close enough.  

    The eggs of lice are called nits (lisa in Filipino), and they cling to hair strands that are very close to the scalp. They’re tiny and can be a little difficult to spot. When the nits hatched, they turn white. The shell of the egg though remains attached on the hair strand, which is why you can sometimes see nits farther from the scalp. These are, however, just empty shells.

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    In color, nits are anywhere between yellow to brown, and when hatched, turn white. The shell of the egg remains attached to the hair strand even after hatching, which is why you can sometimes see nits farther from the scalp. These are, however, just empty shells. 

    Lice multiply fast -- an adult kuto can lay up to 10 eggs a day. That’s a hundred eggs in their lifetime, according to Dr. Arlene Bertuso, an entomologist and professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila College of Public Health, as reported by The Manila Standard. It is why quick treatment is best.  

    To see if your child has lice, check behind the ear, along the hairline and around the nape of the neck. Part your child’s hair and look for nits and lice. Since they’re tiny, nits can be confused as dandruff or dirt. Nits, however, are firmly attached to hair whereas dandruff and dirt can be easily shaken away. 

    If you’re having trouble looking by hand, use a suyod or fine-tooth comb. For best results, do this just after bathing your child. “Wetting the hair beforehand is recommended because it temporarily immobilizes the lice and the conditioner makes it easier to get a comb through the hair,” says KidsHealth.

    Ask your child to bend his head, and comb her hair from the nape to the forehead. Have a blank paper, wider than your child's head, ready to catch the lice as you comb the hair. You should also be able to see the lice stuck to the comb.   

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    Don’t let the infestation get worse or spread to other members of the household. Ask your child’s doctor about head lice treatments and make sure you get their go-signal before starting treatment. It is for all children and especially if your child is below 2 years old or your child has developed an infection to the head lice. It should be said that gasoline or kerosene is not safe to treat kuto.

    The University of the Philippines Manila Health Sciences Center recommends medicated shampoos or cream rinses that contain pyrethrins or permethrin, which can effectively kill lice. They’re safe to use but make sure you follow your doctor’s advice as well as instructions on the package. Retreatment may be instructed over the course of a few weeks along with the continued use of a suyod to rid of nits. With guidance and a little perseverance, your child will be kuto-free. 

    To make sure your kids’ kuto don’t come back, remind your child to avoid sharing combs, brushes, hats, hair bands, and towels with other kids. She needs to avoid head-to-head contact as much as possible with other children when playing or at school. And, politely decline sleepovers with other children when your child or the host family has head lice. Give your child's bed and pillow covers, towels, hats and clothes a thorough washing. And, remember, check every household member for lice regularly.  

    Sources: KidsHealth, BabyCenter, HealthyChildren.org 1, HealthyChildren.org 2, Gov.ph, The Manila Standard, University of the Philippines Manila

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