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Physical and mental health for young children
Physical and mental health for young children

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4.2 Parasites and infestations

Parasites live off a host, and depending on the type of parasite, they can be a significant cause of ill health.

A common parasite that causes infestations in the UK is headlice. Outbreaks are common in education settings where large numbers of children are in close contact. They can be removed effectively and need not affect children’s health in the long term. However, in the short term, the presence of headlice can cause itching and sleep disturbance and, in turn, this can make children feel miserable.

Worms, such as threadworms, can cause children to lose their appetite and result in weight loss. In some areas of the world, guinea worms that can grow up to a metre long cause malnutrition leading to significant health problems.

Malaria is a significant health challenge in many parts of the world. It is caused by the plasmodium parasite and can be spread to humans by a single mosquito bite. Malaria is a significant cause of death and chronic poor health, especially for children.

The following sections look at two of the most effective ways of reducing the spread of infection, which are handwashing and childhood immunisations.