Head Lice in Indonesia and the United Kingdom

Head lice are a problem that has happened for decades, even centuries. What are head lice? They are very small insects that live in human’s or animal’s hair. They feed by sucking blood and they spread quickly from one place to another. Even though they are not dangerous nor do they spread any kind of virus, they cause itchiness and usually leave marks on the skin. Head lice infestation is a common problem all over the world. However, there has not been a specific approach in getting rid of these insects due to the fact that people do not think it is necessary to do so, as head lice are not considered too big of a bother. Even these days, this disease does not get talked about as much as it used to be in the past. Not many people really pay attention anymore to these disgusting insects, but rather they ignore them. But are head lice really that insignificant? How do different aspects affect them? In this writing, I want to compare and discuss some aspects related to head lice infestation in Indonesia and the United Kingdom. The aspects in question include age, sex, seasons, and the governments’ response to head lice.

Age is the first aspect that relates significantly to the infestation of head lice. In the United Kingdom, head lice are found in every age group. However, young children, more specifically those who go to school, are more likely to get affected. This is due to the fact that children have more physical contact with each other, hence making it easier for head lice to spread. Children starting from nursery up to secondary school face this problem. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), studies show that in the UK, approximately 4-22% infestation of head lice might occur in children, especially those aged between 4-11. Parents do not seem to be aware of this, or they simply do not care. Based on my experience at school, I knew several students whose parents knew that their children had lice crawling around on their heads yet had done nothing to get rid of them. In Indonesia, head lice are also exceedingly found among children especially in pesantren. Based on the articles I have read, children in pesantren or boarding schools are highly susceptible to head lice because they make physical contact with each other a lot, even to the point of sleeping close to each other. Based on research done by Restiana, 71.3% of the students in a boarding school in Yogyakarta experienced head lice infestation. Another study also shows that 84% of the students in Pondok Pesantren Al-Mimbar Sombongdukuh in Jombang have been infested with head lice. 

Another major aspect which relates to the risk of getting head lice is sex. In Indonesia as well as in the UK, head lice infestations tend to occur more in women than men. GridHealth states that Indonesian women even have a habit or culture of looking for head lice. This is because in general, women have more physical contact than men. This would, of course, make the transmission of head lice easier and the chance of infestation higher. In addition to that, women on average have longer hair compared to men. It is more difficult to clean long hair, even though several sources mention that hygiene does not relate to the infestation of head lice. Furthermore, women are more likely to share hair accessories like combs, hair bands, headscarves, as well as clips which is another factor to facilitate transmissions of head lice. This is why in Indonesia, women who wear hijab are usually more in danger of head lice infestation. 

The next aspect that affects susceptibility to head lice is the seasons. Since there are only sunny and rainy seasons in Indonesia, head lice could be contacted at any time. Temperature does not affect the spreading or the breeding of head lice. Yet, for women who wear hijab, rainy seasons are riskier because their heads would get moist which results in all sorts of different hair problems, including head lice. As for in the United Kingdom, head lice infestation is more common during winter and less so during summer. This is because in winter, people are more likely to gather inside their houses. Overcrowding increases the chance of head lice spreading. Additionally, winter jackets, hats, and scarves worn and then shared by people in winter could also become the places for these insects to nest, since they cannot survive too long in the cold. Several days of freezing temperatures may kill head lice as well as nits.

Based on the aspects above, you might be wondering, how do head lice relate to the government in both of these countries? To answer this question, let’s see how each of them handle this matter. In the UK, the government takes good care of this problem. They created websites particularly for head lice; their symptoms, how to check for them, as well as how to get rid of them and information on the nearest clinics and hospitals for head lice treatments. The government even makes schools give out dozens of leaflets and brochures which campaign about head lice infestations and how they can help to solve the problem. The UK NHS (National Health Service) and BAD (British Association of Dermatologists) have made articles regarding this matter as well. Some pharmacies have created medicines which are specifically made for head lice like the Hedrin Treat and Go and Full Marks Solution. On the other hand, the Indonesian government needs to show more concern for this matter, especially in educating the society in treating head lice. As my mum said, “head lice is the disease of the past. When I was young, my friends and neighbours used to have them. But people in the city don’t have head lice anymore these days. The medicine doesn’t even exist in pharmacies anymore, not that I know of.” This causes the people to lack knowledge on how to overcome the problem. As stated in Grid.id, a video in 2019 shows a mother spraying insect repellent on her child’s hair to get rid of head lice. This is extremely dangerous for it can cause poisoning if inhaled by the child.

To summarize, there are several aspects of Indonesia and the United Kingdom which can be related to head lice, such as age, sex, as well as season. Head lice infestations tend to occur mostly on children in schools and women because of the larger amount of physical contact that they’re engaged in. Additionally, overcrowding increases the chance of these insects spreading. Society and the government should be aware of this matter and find ways to solve it. 

 

References:

Downs, A. M., Harvey, I., & Kennedy, C. T. (1999). The epidemiology of head lice and scabies in the UK. Epidemiology and infection, 122(3), 471–477. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0950268899002277 

Fadilah, H. (2015). Perbedaan Metode Ceramah dan Leaflet Terhadap Skor Pengetahuan Santriwati Tentang Pedikulosis Kapitis di Pondok Pesantren Al-Mimbar Sambongdukuh Jombang. Thesis. Jakarta: Fakultas Kedokteran dan Ilmu Keperawatan Universitas Islam Negeri Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta

Restiana, R. (2010). Hubungan Berbagai Faktor Risiko Terhadap Angka Kejadian Pedikulosis kapitis di Asrama. Thesis. Yogyakarta: Fakultas Kedokteran Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta

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