Head Lice - Lousy Little Parasites!
by Richard H Ealom
INTRODUCTION: Head lice (Pediculus capitis) are tiny parasitic insects well adapted to living mostly on the scalp and neck hairs of human host. These are mainly gotten by direct head-to-head contact with an infested person's hair, but may on rare occasions be transferred with shared combs, hats and other hair accessories.
They get their nutrition by blood-feeding once or twice each day, and cannot survive for more than one day or so at room temperature without immediate access to human blood. These parasites can live up to 30 days on a human holding on to hair with hook-like claws found at the end of each of their 6 legs. They are rarely found on the body, eyelashes, or eyebrows and rarely (if ever) cause direct harm, or transmit infectious agents from one person to another. Head lice are equal opportunity parasites that do not respect socio-economic class distinctions and can infest persons of all ages, but children are more likely to become infested because of their habit of playing in close proximity, sharing hats, headphones, combs and brushes, sleeping bags, stuffed animals, and clothing.
NITS: Head lice eggs are called nits and are laid by the adult female at the base of the hair shaft closest the scalp and look sort of like dandruff, only they can't be gotten rid of by brushing or shaking them off. The eggs hatch about 7 to 11 days after they are laid. Eggs further than 1/4 inch away from the scalp have probably already hatched. Nits are most effectively gotten rid of by combing the hair with a specially designed nit comb. The eggs can be distinguished from dandruff flakes as they are very adherent to the hair shaft, whereas dandruff can be easily moved along the hair shaft.
INFESTATION: Contact with an already infested person is the most usual way to acquire head lice. Less frequently, Wearing clothing, such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, or hair ribbons, recently worn by an infested person. There are four crucial steps to controlling an infestation: the use of an effective head louse medication; nit removal from the head (combing); removal of lice and nits from the household environment by vacuuming, washing, or freezing objects suspected of infestation; and daily head inspections and nit removal until infestation is gone, followed by weekly head checks to detect re-infestation. The physician should be able to inform you if your child is infested with lice and needs to be treated.
TREATMENT: Treatment should be considered ONLY when active lice or viable eggs are seen. A treatment can produce significant side effects in children younger than 6 months old, the elderly, and anybody weighing less than 110 pounds (50 kg), especially when it is used repeatedly over a short period of time. If your child is two years old or under, you should not use medications. Your child's MD may suggest repeating treatment in 7 to 10 days to make sure all the nits have been killed and to avoid any opportunity for re-infestation. Treatments may be over-the-counter or prescription medications, depending on what has already been used. It isn't uncommon for treatments to be unsuccessful because of improper use or because the lice may be resistant to the chemical in the shampoo. Following the directions on the product label is also necessary to ensure that the it works properly.
Medicated shampoos can usually kill the lice and nits, but it may take a few days for the itching to cease. Some do not. Don't use a hair dryer on your child's hair after applying any of the currently available hair shampoos, because some contain flammable components. Don't wash your child's hair for 1 to 2 days after using a medicated shampoo. Be patient and follow the protocol and preventative tips as directed by your child's MD for keeping the creatures at bay, and you'll be well on your way to keeping your family free of lice.
If you feel like you're following every recommendation and your child still has lice, it might be for one or more of the following reasons: there are still some nits left behind, your child is still being exposed to a person with lice, the shampoo you're using isn't effective. If your child still has lice for two weeks after you started treatment or if your child's scalp appears infected (with pus or sores), call your child's physician. Vacuuming the carpets, upholstery, and car seats will get rid of any lice that fell off before treatment.
CONCLUSION: Head lice infect hair on the scalp and are more common in close, overcrowded living conditions. Infestation produces intense itching, but does not lead to a serious medical condition. They can be spread when infested hair brushes or combs are shared or when infested bedding, towels or shower caps are shared. Head lice is a growing problem because lice-killing medicines are becoming less effective. Every year, between 6 and 12 million people worldwide become infested. Children ages 3-11 and their families become infested most frequently. Pets are of no significance in transmitting human lice, and should not be treated.
In one study, the estimated annual cost of infestations in the US was nearly one billion dollars. Girls contract head lice more frequently than boys; women more often than men. Anyone can become infested and the presence of head lice is not the result of unclean conditions. Even though it can be challenging to eliminate, you must be patient and persistent when dealing with an infestation.
About the Author:
Richard H. Ealom is a writer who has written many articles on Diseases, Their Causes And Cures. Find natural treatments for Head Lice by visiting the The Most Effective Home Remedies for Head Lice! website. You can use this article as long as you leave this box unchanged.