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Tips for Taking Care of Your Child’s Scalp Problem

Tips for Taking Care of Your Child’s Scalp Problem
By Parents & Kids Editors

Every parent hates it when a child has an itchy or unsightly scalp problem. We hate running to the doctor every week for such small issues, but on the other hand, we want things to heal up properly and not leave scars, skin infections, or lead to permanent hair loss. And then there’s every parent’s worst hair and scalp nightmare, which usually starts showing up in schools during the cooler fall months we’re entering now: lice (yuk!).

The American Academy of Dermatology recently offered some tips that most all parents will find useful when a child has a scalp-related issue, whether it’s dandruff, alopecia areata (hair loss in certain areas of the scalp), or some other condition.

“There are many safe and effective treatments for scalp conditions, and a few of these can even be purchased without a prescription,” said board-certified dermatologist Amy J. McMichael, MD, FAAD, a professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. “However, applying these medications can be tricky if you don’t have the proper technique.”

With a little practice, Dr. McMichael said, the application of scalp meds to dry hair should take less than two minutes to complete. However, it’s important to follow your dermatologist’s directions when applying scalp medications, she said, as different conditions may require different instructions (this is particularly true for medications used to treat lice). Dr. McMichael recommends the following steps when applying a liquid medicine or medicated shampoo: — Part hair down the middle of the head. Use a dropper to apply the medication along the part, from the front of your scalp to the back. If your medication doesn’t come with a dropper, you can get one from a drugstore. Make sure you continuously squeeze out the medication as you work your way along the part with the dropper.

  • Part hair a second and third time to the right and left of the middle part, about two inches down. Continuously apply the medication along each part from the front of the scalp to the back.
  • Part hair a fourth and fifth time just above the ears. Continuously apply the medication along each part from the front of the scalp to the back.

“Solution medications are commonly used among those with naturally straight hair, including Asian-Americans and many Caucasians,” Dr. McMichael explained. “For those with coarse, curly or chemically relaxed hair, including many African-Americans, foam medications may be easier to apply and more popular.” Foam medications can be applied the same way as solution medications, except using the bottle cap instead of a dropper. Since foam medications are designed to melt when they come into contact with a person’s body heat, she said, the medication will dissolve if it’s applied to the hands before it’s applied to the scalp. To apply a foam medication, Dr. McMichael recommends these tips: — Part hair down the middle of the head. Then, dispense a small amount of medication into the bottle cap. Bring the bottle cap up to the hair and use your fingertips to continuously rake small amounts of the medication out of the bottle cap and into the hair’s part, from the front of the scalp to the back.

  • Part hair a second and third time to the right and left of the middle part, about two inches down. Continuously rake the medication out of the bottle cap and into each part, from the front of the scalp to the back.
  • Part hair a fourth and fifth time just above the ears. Continuously rake medication out of the bottle cap and into each part, from the front of the scalp to the back. Wash your hands immediately after applying the medication.

Hopefully, these tips will help take some of the stress out of making sure the medicine you’ve been prescribed — or picked up at a local drugstore — ends up where it belongs and speeds healing of your child’s scalp issues.

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