Ask Emily

29 09 2011

Are there really worms living in our eyelashes?

Well, no, not worms, exactly. Exactly speaking, they are arachnids. And unless you’re in the estimated 5% free of these microscopic critters, there’s likely more than one living in that forest of hairs lining your eyes. I know, there’s a major ewww factor involved for a lot of people, especially when you see images of these things. By the way, obtaining those images appears to involve extracting the microscopic mites from hair follicles using “Krazy Glue” (see below).

Clocking in at a tiny 0.1  to 0.44 mm, the mites, if you’ve got ‘em, move around mostly at night on their four pairs of legs and dine sumptuously on surface skin cells (and yes, they poop). Many people walk around oblivious to their presence, but if the mites do cause symptoms, they generally are of the irritation sort, such as itching and scaling skin on the eyelids. These mites may not stay confined to the eye area and have been found in people who have rosacea, although whether or not they’re causative in that skin disorder remains unclear.

As with many organisms we host, it may be that disease or infection gives them a greater opportunity for colonization, especially if the immune system is suppressed or overtasked. They’ve also been implicated in conditions involving dry eyes, facial inflammation, and an eye disorder called blepharitis.

We’ve known about our cohabitation with these mites since at least 1840, when the primary species that inhabits us, Demodex folliculorum, was identified. It may make or may not make you feel better to know that this mite is the only parasite that hangs out in this specific area. Their presence appears to increase with age, with one study finding it in 84% of a population with an average age of 61 years, but in 100% of those older than age 70. They don’t seem to care at all whether you’re male or female. In spite of their ubiquity, though, these parasites are by no means off the hook when it comes to implications of their involvement in disease. As one publication has noted—and it’s worth quoting here—

As old-fashioned as mites may seem, and as low-tech is their removal from the follicle with Krazy Glue on a glass slide, the reader is cautioned that one of the great minds in dermatology suspected Demodex to be an unindicted coconspirator in several still poorly understood skin disorders. One could do worse than to further consider the possibility.

I supposed one could.

Do you have a question for Emily? Send it to:

By Emily Willingham

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Mary Beth Says: Check for Bedbugs!

12 07 2010

Dr. Mary Beth, PKIDs’ advice nurse, tells us to check for bedbugs and explains what to do should we find them.

Listen now!

Right-click here to download podcast (8.5min/4mb)

6 Quick First Aid Tips

9 07 2010

It’s summer! Our kids are outside climbing, running, jumping, getting hurt, and needing help.

Here’s a quick list of first aid tips to help see you and the kids through the next couple of months:

  1. Standard Precautions—Before touching any blood or body fluid, put a barrier between yourself and the fluid. Barriers like latex gloves, sandwich baggies, or even thick rolled-up towels might do in a pinch.
  2. Bleeding—Most scrapes or cuts are minor and will stop bleeding without our help. When they don’t, take a clean cloth and press on the wound for about 20 minutes. Elevate the site if possible. If the bleeding doesn’t stop or significantly slow down, get professional advice.
  3. Wounds—No need for soap in the wound, just rinse it out with clean water. If any fragments remain, pluck them out with clean tweezers. Put antibiotic ointment on the wound to help prevent infection and cover it with a bandage. If the wound seems deep, more than ¼ inch, get stitches.
  4. Heat—If you or someone else is suffering from heat stroke, get in the shade, cool down with water from a garden hose or another source, and call for the pros because heat stroke isn’t something with which you want to mess around.
  5. Insects—If you’re stung, scrape the stinger from side to side to remove it. Wash the site with soap and water and put an ice pack on it to reduce swelling. If you have a tick, remove it with tweezers, pinching it as close to your skin as you can. Wash the area with soap and water, as you would with any bug bite.
  6. Vaccines—Check with your healthcare provider to see what immunizations are right for you.

Sources where you can find more complete first aid information:

Now for the small print, which we’ll keep normal size for easier reading: The information on PKIDs’ blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered to be medical advice. It is not meant to replace the advice of the physician who cares for your child. All medical advice and information should be considered to be incomplete without a physical exam, which is not possible without a visit to your doctor.


Bedbugs Give Us the Willies

26 05 2010

After a long day of navigating crowded airports and chasing sleep on loud, stuffy airplane cabins, don’t you just heave a sigh of relief when you finally reach your hotel room?

Do you drop your bags and flop onto the bed, just so darn happy not to be sitting in a cramped airplane? When you do head for the bed, do you first check the mattress for bedbugs? We do.

Bedbugs are tiny bloodsuckers that give us the willies. Not only do they suck our blood, they love to hop onto our clothes or our luggage and go home with us.

Bedbugs are small, brownish-red insects with flat, oval-shaped bodies. Despite their names, bedbugs can live in other areas besides your bed including nooks and crannies on bed frames, on curtains, wall plaster, and on other materials.

These little vampires were nearly eliminated through the liberal use of DDT in the 1940s and 1950s. Bedbugs have become a problem again in the U.S. due to international travel and what experts fear is evidence of bedbugs’ growing immunity to conventional insecticides.

There’s a good chance you will come into contact with bedbugs at some point, especially if you travel often or frequently purchase and trade items like used furniture.

Sleeping on a pile of bugs has a pretty high gross factor, but the most that will happen when bitten is a red bump and some itching.

The real challenge is getting rid of them once they’re found, a situation that will probably require the aid of a pest control expert.

Here are some tips for identifying an infestation and alleviating the problem (fingers crossed):

  • Get a positive ID on the bug. You may not have bedbugs and might not need to go through the song and dance required to rid yourself and your home of the infestation.
  • Make sure you have a live infestation and not just signs (dead bugs, blood spots on bedding) of a past infestation.
  • Don’t assume the bugs are living in only one room. Check all of your rooms for bedbugs. Dismantle the bed and check the frame and head/foot boards for bugs. Pull out all of the drawers from the furniture and check behind as well as on the underside of the drawers. Turn the furniture over and check the bottom, as well as all sides and the top. Leave no nook or cranny unexplored, no matter how small. Clean all of these areas you’re inspecting.
  • Clean out the clutter in your room(s). Bedbugs will roam and love to hide in clutter.
  • Roll up your sleeves for some major cleaning. Scrub everything with a brush and cleaning agent to dislodge the eggs. Vacuum where you can’t scrub and, once it’s dry, vacuum what you did scrub.
  • Keep the bed away from the wall and your bedding off the floor to prevent bugs from crawling onto the bed. Put the bed legs into cups of mineral oil to prevent the critters climbing up that way.
  • Look around the interior of the house and seal spots where bugs can get in, such as cracks around baseboards, or holes where pipes come through the walls.
  • Talk to a pest control expert who’s experienced in bedbug infestations. Get references and find out what the plan is for removal, what insecticides might be used, and how those chemicals may affect those living in your home.

Wish we could end on a brighter note…hey, bedbugs aren’t known to carry disease-causing germs. There’s some good news! Right?