They have been with us for centuries from Cleopatra’s nit combs to the head lice infestation (Pediculus humanus capitis) during the Victorian period when people shaved their heads and wore wigs.
I thought this would be of interest since this is common among young age school children and the kids have been back to school for a while. Kids play involves direct contact that helps this parasite move to another host. This is something that can’t be totally avoided.
What are Head Lice?
These creepy, crawling wingless insects need to feed on human blood several times a day to live. They are 1 of 3 types that live on humans. Lice are small. They just like to live on the scalp where it is warm. They aren’t particular. It doesn’t matter whose scalp or what type of hair. Just looking for a warm place to have babies and live. I know, I know ugh. Don’t need! No laughing matter.
There are three stages to their life cycle. The eggs (nits) are laid by the adult female. She leaves a sticky substance that attaches the tiny oval egg to a hair shaft. These eggs can be mistaken for dandruff or scabs.
The nymph is the immature louse. They become adults about 9-12 days once hatched from the egg.
The adult is almost the size of a sesame seed with six legs. The louse can be tan to grayish-white. It can live almost 30 days as long as it stays warm near a scalp. It will die 1-2 days after should it fall off. An adult female usually larger in size can lay around 6 eggs per day. A live nymph or louse needs to be found on the scalp or hair to have a diagnosis.
They avoid light so it is hard to spot them. And they move by crawling with these claws that grip on your hair shaft. You may need to use a magnifying glass to see them. They can even survive underwater for about 6 hours.
There is really no way to prevent these bugs from coming along. Doing a regular head check would catch things early. Collecting some information to set a plan in place could help with some of the anxiety.
I know when I grew up I was told to share but we don’t want to do this with personal items. This includes our combs, hairbrushes, hair clips and hats. Basically anything that is placed on your head.
Head lice are basically harmless and aren’t known to carry any disease. They are just a nuisance and big inconvenience. Infections may develop from scratching the bites. Itching on the scalp, neck and ears is the most common symptom.
Your Doctor will diagnosis an infestation by using a fine-toothed comb (nit comb) starting at your child’s scalp to the end of the hair. A wood’s lamp may also be used causing the nits to appear bluish.
Over the counter meds can be used to kill the lice and some of the eggs. Yes some. Follow directions on package. The insect matures in stages so treatment may need to be repeated.
Any combs, brushes and bedding will also need to be treated in hot water. Placing combs and brushes in a bag in the freezer is also an option. Plastic brushes and combs can be soaked for 15 minutes in hot tap water and the head lice shampoo you are using.
These contain pyrethrin which is extracted from the chrysanthemum flower. This is toxic to lice.
Products to look for are Nix and Rid, A200 Lice Treatment. You can find these in any pharmacy department.
If over the counter meds fail a prescription can be given for; Benzyl alcohol (Ulesfia), Malathion (Ovide) or Lindane. It is important to follow the package directions to safely use these meds. Like I mentioned earlier you may have to repeat this.
For the sake of others and to try to prevent a spread it would be beneficial to inform your school nurses, the parents of other classmates and others who have had possible direct contact.
Your local state health departments may have recommendations that you could check.
If you are in the Milwaukee, WI area there is a facility called Lice Clinics of America –Milwaukee, WI in Elm Grove. They have a special machine using hot air that dehydrates the lice and some eggs. They do the process of lice removal for you so you don’t have to deal with it. There are 4 other locations in WI.
This treatment option is:
- Single treatment needed, most of time
- Offer special finance options
- You need to make an appointment
- Contains no pesticides or toxins
- Just involves heated air
- This is a dehydration process
- Average cost $175
*Check warnings list for contradictions