In hygienic and well fed human populations parasitic skin infestations occur rarely. Head lice outbreaks occur in schools where children are likely to make head to head contact. Wet combing with a lice comb is effective in removing the adult lice and breaking the 7 day life cycle. Treatment with essential oils in a scalp massage, shampoo or conditioner is effective but it is important to remember to leave the essential oils on for 30 minutes before rinsing for example covering the head with clingfilm. Lice are brown in colour and the size of a pinhead when they hatch and 3mm long (the size of a sesame seed) when fully grown. A female head louse lays white eggs by cementing them to hairs (often close to the root) where they will be kept warm by the scalp. The eggs are pinhead size and difficult to see.
Student Case studies of the use of natural products for control of lice infestations can be found in animals. These sometimes manifest themselves in older animals in April each year. Holistic treatments should be discussed with the Vet treating the animals and can be effective in minimising the symptoms. Insects are affected by essential oils which confuse the chemical messages insects use to communicate.
Among horses sweet itch is a medical condition with signs of hairloss, dry skin and itching caused by an allergic response to the bites of Culicoides midges. The horse's immune system reacts against the saliva. Unfortunately once prone to sweet itch the horse will be affected from April to October though the skin will heal in the winter. Sweet itch is not infectious so it can affect one horse without affecting the herd. These Culicoides midges do not fly more than 100m so considerable relief can be obtained by moving horses away from pasture which is boggy or contains stagnant ponds where the midge breeds. Natural treatments. Aloe vera can be rubbed onto the skin to prevent the animal from itching the dry skin patches. Citronella oil is an effective and non toxic insect repellant which will deter the midges but it must be repeatedly applied. The ideal time is morning and dusk when the midges are active.
Mange. Wild Fox populations are severely affected by mange caused by parasites living in the skin. Foxes can be treated by leaving food for them containing remedies. If mange is left untreated the infestation can spread all over the animals body and cause death by exhaustion. The parasites life cycle must be broken. Any animal shelters should be disinfected. Infestation can spread to domestic animals and also humans. A whole herd of horses so an affected animal must be isolated and actively treated at the first possible sign of hair loss and skin infection. As the parasites which cause mange can be transmitted to humans any direct treatment should be applied with disposable gloves. Natural treatments. A natural treatment with neem oil can be used in conjuction with the synthetic treatments but mange is a serious condition and veterinary advice should be immediately sought.
Always consult your veterinary surgeon.