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26th Oct 2012

Ask The GloHealth Doctor – Your Health Questions Answered

Have you got a health concern on your mind? Every week we'll be tackling the health concerns of readers with the help of our GloHealth Doctor, Doctor Conor Fitzgerald. This week, readers want to know about period pains and head-lice.

Have you got a health concern you’d like some advice on? We’ve got our GloHealth Doctor, Dr. Conor Fitzgerald, on hand every week to answer your questions.* This week he’s talking about period pains and head-lice…

“Hi Doctor, I know every woman suffers when it’s that time of the month, but I honestly think I’m in much more pain than is normal! Every month I spend three days in absolute agony with cramps and nausea, sometimes it’s so bad that there’s no way I can go to work. I know my boss is getting really annoyed but I honestly can’t do anything when I’m feeling like that. What do you think might be causing it?”

Hi and thanks for your question. I’m sorry to hear about your severe symptoms. You are describing dysmenorrhoea which is essentially period cramps that are so severe that they impact on your life.

During menstrual periods, your uterus contracts to help expel its lining. Hormone-like substances (prostaglandins) involved in pain and inflammation trigger the uterine muscle contractions. Higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more severe menstrual cramps.

There are certain medical conditions which can cause dysmenorrhoea including:

Endometriosis: In this painful condition, the tissue that lines your uterus becomes implanted outside your uterus, most commonly on your fallopian tubes, ovaries or the tissue lining your pelvis.

Uterine fibroids: These noncancerous growths in the wall of the uterus rarely may be the cause of pain.

Adenomyosis: In this condition, the tissue that lines your uterus begins to grow into the muscular walls of the uterus.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): This infection of the female reproductive organs is usually caused by sexually transmitted bacteria.

Cervical stenosis: In some women, the opening of the cervix may be so small that it impedes menstrual flow, causing a painful increase of pressure within the uterus.

The good news is that treatment is available. The treatment will depend on the cause but it could include hormonal contraceptive medications in the form of the Pill, a patch, an implant, a vaginal ring or a coil.

It may also include antiiflammatory medications. Surgery is another option that would be considered for certain conditions. So rather than suffering every month I would advise talking to your GP, checking for a cause of the painful periods and commencing appropriate treatment.

“Doctor I’m at the end of my tether. My children have come home from school with head lice this week for the FOURTH time. I use the special shampoo every time, but is there any way to prevent them getting this in the first place?”

Head lice in children can be very frustrating especially when you make such an effort to treat the lice. It is notoriously difficult to prevent the spread of head lice among children in school. There’s so much close contact among children and their belongings that lice can spread easily. It’s no reflection on your hygiene habits or those of your children, and it’s not a failure on your part as a parent if your child gets head lice.

A number of small studies have shown that ingredients in some products, mostly plant oils such as rosemary, citronella, eucalyptus, tea tree and lemon grass, may work to repel lice.

However, these products have not been tested to the highest safety and effectiveness standards as prescribed medications are; therefore until more research proves the effectiveness of head lice prevention products, the best approach is simply to take thorough steps to get rid of the lice, and their eggs, so that you don’t have more lice to deal with.

Useful tips include:

Ask your child to avoid head-to-head contact with classmates during play and other activities.

Instruct your child not to share personal belongings such as hats, scarves, coats, combs, brushes, hair accessories and headphones.

Instruct your child to avoid shared spaces where hats and clothing from more than one student are hung on a common hook or kept in a locker.

However, it’s not realistic to expect that you and your child can eliminate all the types of contact that may result in the spread of lice. If there is an outbreak of lice in the school, it is important that all parents are informed and that all affected children are treated, otherwise the lice will continue to spread to child after child in the school. I wish you all the best with this difficult problem. 

If you’ve got a question you want to put to our GloHealth Doctor, just drop us a mail to [email protected] – all emails will be treated in the strictest confidence.

*If you have ongoing concerns about your symptoms, please contact your GP

Dr. Conor Fitzgerald, GloHealth Medical Council


Dr. Conor Fitzgerald studied medicine at UCD, worked in Naas General Hospital and also in the Adelaide & Meath hospital, incorporating the National Childrens’ Hospital, (AMNCH) Tallaght. He trained on the Mid Leinster GP Training Scheme and worked as a GP in Wicklow. Dr. Fitzgerald is currently working in GP practice in Lucan, Co.Dublin.