Children and health

Communicable diseases or infectious disease are illnesses caused by infective pathogens including some viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. In some cases they are considered to be contagious or easily transmissible from person to person, such as Varicella (chicken pox). For this reason many communicable disease are reportable, in order to protect other members of the population and reduce the spread of disease.

Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract involving both the stomach and small intestine, which can result in vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal cramping is a common infectious disease found in the community.  During a ‘gastro’ outbreak there is often a common event or source, where the outbreak is the result of a common exposure at a defined time and place.  Outbreaks of gastroenteritis allegedly related to food or a food premises, and outbreaks of infectious gastroenteritis in care facilities, are the most common types of outbreaks reported.

If a gastroenteritis outbreak is suspected, Council's Environmental Health Unit is advised either directly from members of the public or via the Department of Health. Environmental Health will then investigate the outbreak and at times with the assistance of the Department of Health.

Common childhood illnesses

Common childhood illnesses such as chicken pox, conjunctivitis, measles, mumps and other common childhood illnesses require that children be excluded from school for some periods to prevent further spread of the disease.  A full list of infectious diseases and their exclusion periods can be found at the Department of Health website on the school exclusion table.

For more information about communicable diseases The Blue Book provides information about various infectious diseases and guidelines for the control of infectious disease.

Immunisation

Immunisation programs assist with reducing the spread of disease and Nillumbik Shire Council, like other local councils provides an immunisation service to the community. See the immunisation timetable   

Environmental Health registers and inspects all premises conducting skin penetration activities such as tattooists and body and ear piercers in addition to beauty parlours and hairdressers.  The purpose of this registration is to prevent the spread of infectious diseases by regular inspection, proprietor education and information transfer.

Head lice

Often head lice infections do not cause any symptoms or itching. The best way to tell if a child or you have head lice is to look. Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice.

Live lice often live around warm protected areas in the hair, behind the ears, at the base of neck or at the base of ponytails. They can often be hard to spot as the climbers move quickly from disturbances in the hair and are very small in the nymph stage.

Eggs are not as difficult to see using a strong light and looking on the hair shafts. Newly laid eggs are closer to the head, within 1.5cm of the scalp and are very hard to remove by hand. Older, hatched eggs are further down the hair shaft and can be pulled out of the hair quite easily.

An easy way to find and remove lice and eggs is to use the conditioner and nit comb technique. Conditioner stuns the lice and decreases their ability to grip the hair shafts.

Conditioner and comb treatment technique

  1. Apply conditioner to dry hair aiming to cover each hair from root to tip with a layer of conditioner.
  2. De-tangle the hair using an ordinary comb.
  3. Immediately comb the hair with a fine tooth comb. The best comb for this is metal pronged comb designed specifically for nits, however, plastic nit combs when used with conditioner are also very effective for detecting climbers.
  4. Wipe the conditioner off the fine tooth comb onto a paper tissue or clean off in a bowl of warm water and look for lice and eggs.
  5. Repeat the combing for every part of the head at least five times.
  6. Examine the comb for lice and eggs and wipe clean after every comb through.

TIP - Conditioner stuns the lice for approximately 20 minutes. So once the hair is completely covered in conditioner start the combing process as soon as possible.

TIP - Once hair is completely covered in conditioner and de-tangled, divide the hair into more manageable segments for combing.

TIP - Treat any brushes or combs used on a daily bases or as part of the conditioner and nit comb technique by soaking them in boiled water for 10 minutes.

According to the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009, children with head lice may be readmitted to school after head lice treatment has been undertaken. A certificate from a doctor or council is not required before your child goes back to school. Children do not catch head lice from school, they catch it from other children when they gather together at schools. Head lice are not the fault of schools.

Follow up treatment

The conditioner and comb technique needs to be repeated every two days until no climbers or eggs are found in the conditioner or on the tissue or in the water. If follow up treatment is not administered, eggs that were not removed in the first initial treatment will hatch and any climbers that were not removed will continue to lay eggs. This then will cause a re-infestation of lice.

Recent findings have revealed that lice are rarely found in the environment surrounding and infected person. Therefore if you do have a head lice infestation, the only surrounding environments that will need to be cleaned will be pillow cases and hats worn during the period of infestation. The pillow cases can either be changed or heat treated (hot wash, iron, hot dryer), and hats can be left unused in a dry place for 24 hours, as head lice will become dehydrated after only a few hours in a dry environment.

Council employs nurses to attend local schools and provide further advice. This is a free service annual for local schools and is offered following a request from the school representative to Council.