Q. A small lice-like insect was found on my 9-year-old child’s waist area. It was stuck so hard that after plucking it off, she was bleeding for about 10 minutes. This was the second time it happened. I had found one on her inner thigh when she was about 3 years old. She is a healthy and generally hygienic child. Could this be body lice? How could she have contracted it and what precautions/medication can be taken in future?
A. The main group of parasites that cling to the skin and that may cause bleeding when they are forcefully removed are ticks. Most ticks are parasites of animals and become attached to humans who are available. Thus, playing or working with animals such as dogs or birds can result in transfer of these mobile creatures. Walking in thick undergrowth or away from a road or path with the skin of the legs exposed is a common way of becoming infested. Once attached to the skin, the tick sucks blood and may transfer infection. As a result, fever, rash, lymph node enlargement and joint pains may occur. More serious disorders include sepsis, a malaria-like illness or meningitis. Ticks should be removed gently to avoid squeezing or breaking the creature and the bug should be sent for identification since this enables the doctor to determine if an infection might have been transmitted. The treatment of any symptoms will depend on the specific tick and the organism that is thereby likely to have been transmitted. The source of the tick (such as a dog) should be identified and obvious action taken to avoid other humans becoming infested by contact with the source.