Childrens Health

Nits, Worms & Gastro…Oh My! The Nasties Kids Can Bring Home and How to Fix Them

They’re creepy, they can be itchy and they’re often embarrassing. Nits and worms also extremely common, so chances are your kids will meet at least one of these critters at school.

But don’t despair mamas. We’re here to give you the lowdown on nits and worms, as well as other germs. 

Read on to find out how to spot them and how to stop them!

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You’ll be pleased to know that 95% of all nit cases are caught at school. Yay. And then brought home to share with the rest of the family!

However, they are NOT a sign of bad hygiene. Lice are more of a ‘clean hair, don’t care’ kind of bug and will live just as happily in freshly washed locks and dirty tresses alike. They are passed on by direct hair-to-hair contact.

Eggs, nits and lice are different forms of the same beast. Eggs are the tiny, light brown ovals you see attached to strands of hair near the scalp. Nits are the white-looking, empty eggs, once they have hatched. Lice are the pesky living creatures that crawl out of said tiny eggs and run around causing general itchy chaos. They survive on human blood, which they get by biting the scalp. The saliva from the bite is what causes that annoying itch.

close-up of a head louse | nits and worms
Image source: Better Health Victoria

How to spot nits

It is possible to see lice, but they’re pretty tiny and move fast. You’re more likely to spot the eggs or nits stuck to the hair. They look like dandruff or sand, but they won’t come off when you shake your hair around. The best places to check are the neckline and behind the ears, as this is where they most like to hide. Use a strong light and a magnifying glass for better results.

If you think you see some, use a conditioner on dry hair and run a lice comb through it a few times. The conditioner makes it slippy and harder for them to run away. Wipe on a tissue after each comb through and check the tissue for lice or eggs.

How to stop nits

Most people rely on a nit lotion or shampoo which you can pick up at the chemist. You should treat all of the hair, following the instructions, and then get that lice comb back out to remove whatever’s left.  You should REPEAT in seven days to catch any lice that may have hatched since the first treatment.

Check with your doc if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, have a bub under 12 months old or have allergies, asthma or open wounds.

Another option, if you’d rather not use the medicated shampoo, is to use conditioner and lice comb every second day. Separate your hair into sections and comb from root to tip, wiping the comb with a tissue each time. Do this until there have been no signs of the creepies for ten days.

Wash pillowcases on a hot wash (60 deg) to get rid of any eggs that may have landed there.

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Also known as threadworms or pinworms. They are most commonly found in pre-school and school-age kids, but you’ll be pleased to know the whole family can catch them. If your kids have itchy bums, especially at night, it’s worth checking for the wiggly pests.

Worms are spread when your kid scratches their bottom and collects eggs under their fingernails; they then swallow the eggs when they eat or touch their mouth. Lovely.

Image source: Healthline

How to spot worms

Your best chance of seeing worms is at night, when they come out of the lower intestine to lay their eggs between the buttocks. It’s not very dignified but you’ll just have to grab a torch and have a look!

They look like little white threads and are only about 1cm long. Your child may also spot worms themselves. They can sometimes be seen wriggling in their poo (that’s if your kid just so happens to take a look at what’s in the toilet!).

How to stop worms

The good news is they are easy to get rid of. You can get medicine in the form of little chocolate squares (yes, chocolate!) from your chemist. Your child should shower that night and again in the morning to get rid of any fresh eggs. Again, make sure you treat the whole family at the same time, adults too.

Other actions include:

  • Encourage kids not to scratch their bottoms, but if they just can’t help it, they should do it over their pants to avoid getting eggs under their nails.
  • Keep fingernails short and clean.
  • Wash hands and under nails after going to the toilet.
  • Wash bedding, towels and toys in hot water; keep surfaces the child touches clean (especially door handles) and vacuum regularly to get rid of eggs in the carpet or on the floor.

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Ringworm isn’t actually a worm. It’s a fungal infection that can affect the scalp, face, body, feet and nails. Also medically known as tinea. It is caught by direct contact with an infected person, pet or surface.


Image source: Healthline

How to spot ringworm

On the body, ringworm looks like a rash in the shape of a ring. Hence the name. On the scalp, it starts as a pimple that gets bigger, dries out the skin and can form a yellow crust.

In fingernails, the nail bed can get infected and discoloured. On the feet, it causes dry, cracked skin between the toes and can be itchy.

How to stop ringworm

See your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible to determine the best treatment. This will usually be a cream or oral antifungal medication.

Wash clothes, towels and bedding often in a hot wash.

If it’s on their feet, you can use an antifungal spray in their shoes to stop it coming back.

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Unfortunately, it’s not just nits and worms that us parents need to worry about. There’s also gastro. Gastro, stomach infection or gastroenteritis, is that delightful sickness and diarrhoea bug that makes you feel like death. You know the one.

promote rest to cure a cold

How to spot gastro

Signs of gastro usually include some or all of the following: feeling unwell, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain and fever. Usually caused by a viral infection, gastro is highly contagious so keep washing those hands. And keep your little one off school, you don’t want to infect everyone!

How to stop gastro

Sadly, there’s not much you can do about gastro except to let it run its course. The vomiting usually happens in the first 48 hours, but the diarrhoea can last up to 10 days.

The best thing to do is to keep drinking water or rehydration solutions (like Gastrolyte) in small amounts, often, as all that sicking and pooping can lead to dehydration.

In babies, offering breastmilk or formula every time they vomit will help to prevent dehydration. You can also offer a rehydration solution or water for the first 12 hours.

Babies under 6 months should always see a doctor if you think they might have gastro.

You can usually get rehydration drinks in icy pole form, which is great for little people.

Don’t worry if they don’t want to eat at first, as long as they are drinking fluids.

Whether you’re battling nits and worms or gastro — good luck out there!

Remember, if you have tried these treatments to get rid of nits and worms or gastro and things don’t improve, or you are concerned, you should always take your child to see a doctor.

Forewarned is forearmed – check out this one simple thing that can help stop your kids getting sick at school or childcare.

Avatar of Claire Bugeja

Originally from North East England, Claire now lives in South Australia with her husband, two beautiful boys and one crazy dog. She's a writer, teacher, craftaholic and lover of all things Disney.

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