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Year : 2002  |  Volume : 56  |  Issue : 9  |  Page : 449-452

A study of pediculosis capitis among primary school children in Delhi

Department of Community Medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, Delhi-110002,

Correspondence Address:
A Khokhar
Department of Community Medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, Delhi-110002

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 12710343

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How to cite this article:
Khokhar A. A study of pediculosis capitis among primary school children in Delhi. Indian J Med Sci 2002;56:449-52

How to cite this URL:
Khokhar A. A study of pediculosis capitis among primary school children in Delhi. Indian J Med Sci [serial online] 2002 [cited 2016 May 29];56:449-52. Available from:

Pediculosis capitis or head louse infes­tation has been known to be a world wide public health problem specially among school age children for a long time[1]. Al­though age group most at risk is gene­rally 6-12 years, adults and older chil­dren who have familial contact with a child or primary school children are also susceptible to infection.[2] is widely ac­cepted that the school environment helps in the spread of the infestation simply be­cause it affords opportunity for continual close contact of children. However preva­lence of infestation and pattern of trans­mission is also largely influenced by the family size and number of school age children in the family.[3],[4],[5]

Pediculosis is a blood ectoparasite of man that lives on scalp and hair. Both larvae and adults take two blood meals daily, with repeated exposure the host develops an inflammatory hypersensiti­vity reaction manifesting as a small red papule at each new feeding site. Pruritus results in scratching, a weeping derma­titis and secondary infection.[6]

Although lice have been described as the commonest ectoparasite of man in the tropics but most of what is known about the infestation has been drawn from studies conducted in Europe and America[7]. The current study was under­taken with the objective to determine the prevalence and distribution of Pediculo­sis humanus capitis among primary school children and to identify factors involved in the spread. Such studies would help to provide relevant informa­tion and impetus for planning of mea­sures for the commonest infestation among school children and health edu­cation messages.

 ¤ Material and methods Top

Primary school children of four of the government run schools located in the vicinity of Maulana Azad Medical Col­lege, Delhi were studied. These schools were chosen for convenience of the study. There were a total of 995 children enrolled from 1st to 5th standard. Out of which 940 could be contacted for the purpose of the study. The study was con­ducted between July and October 2001.

Infestation was determined by inspection of each child's head with. the aid of mag­nifying hand lens, if necessary, which was considered infested if at least one adult, nymph or an egg of the louse was present.

After the inspection the children were interviewed using interview schedule forms which contained questions pertain­ing to age, sex, family history of louse infestation, knowledge about prevention of transmission and history of sharing bedding and comb. All the children were educated about prevention and control of this infestation. All those found to be infested were treated.

Socio-economic classification was done according to Gupta et al classification.[8] The data was analyzed on the computer using the Epiinfo version 6.0.

 ¤ Results Top

A total of 940 primary school students from four of the Government run schools of Delhi were interviewed and examined. 548 (58.29%) of them were males and 392(41.70%) females. Hindus consti­tuted 818(87.02%), Muslims 94(10%) and others 28(2.2\97%). Majority, 592(62.97%) belonged to lower income group and 300 (31.91 %) to lower middle and 48(5.10%) to upper middle. A total of 156/940(16.59%) were found to be infested with head louse. A significantly higher proportion of girls (20.42%) were found to be infested as compared to boys (13.86%)p<0.05.

From history, out of a total of 156 infested, 102(65.38%) were aware of the infesta­tion. 54/156(34.61 %) did not give a his­tory of infestation but on examination were found to be otherwise. Age-wise no difference was found in the infesta­tion of boys, girls and both groups com­bined (p>0.05). Those who shared both bedding and the comb showed a higher infestation rate (p<0.05) [Table 1]. As many as 71/102(69.60%) of the subjects who were aware of the infestation had practiced manual removal of the lice, 58(56.86%) of the subjects had used a comb, 17(16.66%) had tried shaving of the hair from the head, 6(5.88%) had used a medicated shampoo to kill the lice and 4(3.92%) had used the medi­cated oil.9(8.8%) subjects had tried us­ing lime and kerosene oil and 16(15.68%) did not use any remedy.

Only 16(1.70%) had no knowledge about modes transmission of head louse. 584(62.21%) had knowledge about transmission of head louse by comb and brush, 319(33.93%) of person to person contact, 12(1.27%) clothing, 9(0.95%) bedding. 16(1.70%) were not aware of any means of spread. As many as 640(68.08%) had knowledge about manual removal as means of control of spread followed by comb, 596(63.40%), oil 54(5.74%) and shampoo 49 (5.21 %). 69(7.34%) mentioned about other me­thods like use of kerosene oil and lime powder.

 ¤ Discussion Top

Head louse infestation was observed to be a common condition among primary school children as has also been documented by others[1],[2],[9] Sarkar et al in their study reported the maximum infestation in the age group of 3 to 10 years[10] In the current study higher proportions of girls were infested as compared to boys. Negi et al who conducted their study in Garwal region of UP found the prevalence among girls to be 35.8% as compared to 11.2% among boys.[11] Bhatia in his study conducted in semi-urban commu­nity of Delhi, Bhansali et al among school children of Udaipur[12] Koley et al in their research in children from district Bankura[13] and Sharma et al[14] ad in their work conducted among urban school children also found the prevalence of in­festation to be higher among girls. Girls generally have longer hair as compared to boys and longer hair require better grooming and combing. Sharing of bed­ding and combs by children is strongly associated with pediculosis among them. Overcrowding and poor standard of hygiene of the children are basically responsible for the high degree of infes­tation found among children.

Some of the subjects mentioned use of lime powder and kerosene oil. Unsafe practices in the treatment of pediculosis capitis like alcohol, kerosene oil and in­secticides has also been observed by Magee[15].

As manual removal of head louse was found to be the most popular remedy adopted by those infested but one is likely to incompletely remove the head louse by this method one needs to educate them about complete removal of head louse by more effective means.

Parents should be advised if one mem­ber of the family had head lice other close members should be checked for lice. Also parents should be advised to tell the school or playgroup or parents of their children's friend so that all the close con­tacts can be checked and treated. School teachers should be taught how to recog­nize louse infestation and school health inspection made compulsory. The school health team should be responsible for treating and preventing the lice infesta­tion besides carrying out other school health services functions.

If however, all families with young chil­dren were to routinely check of live lice on weekly basis using a plastic comb, they would have a good chance of find­ing an infection before it had time to es­tablish. Also families should not suspect lice for inappropriate reasons such as itching of the scalp which occurs only in a minority of head louse infestation and finding old, empty egg shells attached to the hairs.

 ¤ Summary Top

A cross-sectional study was conducted among primary school children of four of the government run schools of Delhi during July-October 2001. Out of a total of 940 study subjects studied 156 (16.59%) were found to be infested with head louse. Significantly higher propor­tions of girls (20.42%) were found to be infested as compared to boys (13.86%). 65.38% of those infested were aware of the infestation. Those who shared both bedding and comb showed a statistically higher significance as compare to oth­ers. Manual removal of head louse and nits was practiced by 69.60% of those aware of the infestation. Majority had knowledge of transmission of head louse by comb/brush. 66.08% had knowledge about control of head louse infestation spread by manual removal 7.34% men­tioned other means like kerosene oil and lime powder.

Since head louse infestation is a com­mon problem of school going children both parents and teachers along with the students should be taught how to recog­nize the infestation. Also school health teams should be responsible for treat­ment and prevention of louse infestation besides carrying our other school health service functions.

 ¤ References Top

1.Jinadu MK, Pediculosis Humanus Capitis among Primary school children in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. J Roy Soc HIth 1985;1:25-27.  Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Burgress FI. Head Lice-developing a practical approach. The Practitioner 1998;242:126-129.  Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Maunder JW. Pediculosis Capitis in a zoological context. J Roy Soc Hlth 1982; 102:255-57.  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.Donaldson RJ. The head louse in England, prevalence among school children. J Roy Soc Hlth 1976;96:55-57.  Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Petrelli G, Majors L, Maggini M, Maroli M. The head louse in Italy: An epidemiological study among school children. J Roy Soc Hlth 1980; 100:64-66.  Back to cited text no. 5    
6.Wilson Braunwald, Isselbachen et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. Pediculosis, 1991, 10th edition; 1:832-833.  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Iwuala MOE Onyeka JOA. The incidence and distribution of head lice infestation among elementary and primary school pupils. Nig Med J 1977; 2:274.  Back to cited text no. 7    
8.Gupta MC Modified BK.Text book of Preventive and Social Medicine ppl 35, Publishers-Jaypee brothers, 2nd edition, 199 7.  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Hong HK, Kim CM, Lee WJYangYC Infestation rate of head lice in primary school children in Inchon, Korea. KorJ Parasitiology 1995;33:243-­ 244.  Back to cited text no. 9    
10.Sarkar R, Kanwar AJ. Three common Dermatological Disorders in children (Scabies, Pediculosis and Dermatophytoses) in children. Indian Paed 2001; 38; 995-1008.  Back to cited text no. 10    
11.Negi KS, Kandpal SD, Prasad, D. Pattern of skin diseases in children in Gatwahal Region in U.P. Indian Paed 2001;38:77-80.  Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Bhatia KK. Pattern of skin diseases in a semi­urban community in Delhi. Indian J Dermatol Venerol Leprol 1984; 50:213-214.  Back to cited text no. 12    
13.Bhansali KM, Mathur G.M. Sharma, RA Study of morbidity pattern in pre-school children (Udaipur). Indian J Dermatol Venerol Leprol 1979;46:13-17.  Back to cited text no. 13    
14.Sharma NK,Garg N. Pattern of skin diseases in urban school children. Indian J Dermatol Venerol Leprol 1986;6:330-331.  Back to cited text no. 14    
15.Magee J Unsafe practices in the treatment of pediculosis capitis. J Sch.Nurs, 1996,,12:17-20.  Back to cited text no. 15    

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