The human body can be a host to parasites, both internal and external. Some human parasites live in hair, while some simply find hair to be a convenient hiding spot. Understanding the symptoms of some of these common parasites can help you and your physician to properly diagnose and treat infestations. While some parasites primarily make you uncomfortable by causing severe itching, other parasites, such as ticks, can put you at risk for contracting several serious diseases.
Scabies can infest any part of your skin. However, children are more likely than adults to have a scabies infestation in the scalp area, says the Mayo Clinic. Scabies is a skin condition caused by a microscopic, burrowing mite. Scabies is highly contagious, and causes severe itching in the affected location. Symptoms include small, irregular blisters along the burrows. The Mayo Clinic suggests that medication called Lindane, available in shampoo form, may be prescribed if you have scabies in the scalp area, although Lindane is not safe for pregnant women or children under two years of age.
Head lice are tiny parasitic insects that live in your hair and feed on blood from your scalp, says the Mayo Clinic.Symptoms of a lice infestation can include severe itching and the presence of nits, or lice eggs, visible when closely examining hair next to the scalp. Lice can usually be killed with over-the-counter shampoos, notes the Mayo Clinic, but prescription shampoos are available if over-the-counter medications fail to kill the lice. Pubic lice, also called crabs, are highly contagious and can live around other types of body hair as well.
Ticks are sometimes confused with insects, but they are actually arthropods, as are spiders. Ticks cling to weeds and shrubs to be picked up when people brush against them. Ticks like to find hiding spots, such as hair or folds in the skin, to feed on blood. Hard ticks, the most common type found on humans, burrow into the skin, so it is important to remove them carefully to prevent infection or the spread of disease. The Illinois Department of Public Health suggests using tweezers close to the skin to pull out a tick, and then carefully cleaning the bite with antiseptic.
There are countless species of mites, many of which live harmlessly on humans. For example, Demodex mites live around human hair follicles and feed on cells. While there are many claims that Demodex mites are responsible for numerous skin problems, from acne to rosacea, results of studies have been inconclusive, notes the California Department of Public Health. However, a severe infestation of follicle mites can cause dermatitis, which can be treated with topical ointments, says the California Department of Public Health.