A mother was arrested after her 4-year-old daughter’s lice infestation was found to be so severe that it nearly killed her, Indiana police say.
Police in Scottsburg, Indiana, were notified by child services about a 4-year-old who had been hospitalized due to lice, according to an affidavit. The hospital declared her “as a near fatality” due to her extremely low hemoglobin levels.
According to the Mayo Clinic, hemoglobin “is a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen to your body’s organs and tissues and transports carbon dioxide from your organs and tissues back to your lungs.” A normal hemoglobin level is 12 grams per deciliter, but the girl’s was recorded at just 1.7, police said.
Hospital staff said the girl’s hemoglobin levels were the lowest they had ever seen — and that she’d already had four blood transfusions, according to court documents. The 4-year-old was so sick that she was unable to walk.
Police learned the girl’s 6-year-old sister was also infested with lice. An officer said the infestation was unlike anything he had seen before.
School workers told police the 6-year-old had lice three straight days in early March before she missed 31 days of school, according to court documents. Her hemoglobin levels were 8.7 grams, which is considered low but not critically so like her younger sister’s, police said.
Child services removed the children from their mother, 26-year-old Shyanne Singh, and placed them in their grandparents’ custody, police said. The girls’ grandmother told police she asked Singh how the lice got so bad, and the mom responded that “she didn’t notice, and that (she) was just in a fog,” according to the affidavit.
The girls also got lice in November and their mother “was just too lazy to help comb them out and it would start all over again,” the grandmother said in her testimony.
Singh was arrested and charged with various counts of neglect, including neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury. Police say Singh failed to manage and seek medical treatment for her daughters’ lice infestations.
A severe case of head lice can cause anemia, which a Vancouver pediatric doctor studied in a 2019 case involving a 4-year-old child. Anemia occurs when an individual “lacks enough healthy blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body tissue’s, according to the Mayo Clinic.
An untreated case of head lice led to the death of a 12-year-old Georgia girl last year and the arrests of her parents, the Associated Press reported.
The CDC says treatment for head lice requires an over-the-counter or sometimes prescription-strength medicine.