Head Lice

If your child returns home from school or an overnight with friends and begins to scratch his scalp because of head lice, there is no need to panic. While head lice can spread, they won’t carry any disease and they don’t mean that you or your children are unclean in any way.

What Are Head Lice?

Head lice are wingless, parasitic insects. They dwell on people’s heads and consume their blood. An adult louse is around the size of a sesame seed, and their eggs which are even smaller are called nits, and are about the size of a knot of thread. Nits and lice are the simplest to detect behind the ears and at the neckline.

Lice are very contagious. Sharing personal belongings like hairbrushes or hats or having close contact can put you at risk for catching lice. Children between the ages of three to eleven get lice most often. Getting lice has nothing to do with personal hygiene and they do not spread disease.

What Are the Signs of Head Lice?

If you’ve never had any experience with lice before and are wondering how to tell if you have lice, don’t worry, it is actually not difficult. There are some signs that you can look for that will alert you to the problem.

1. Lice Eggs

The eggs are tiny tan, yellow or brown dots before they hatch. The nits are laid on the shafts of hair close to the scalp where is warm. They look a bit like dandruff and can’t be removed by shaking them or brushing them off. After one to two weeks, the eggs will hatch and the shell will remains clear or white, staying attached firmly to the shaft of hair.

2. Adult Lice

No larger than a sesame seed, the adult is a brown or grayish-white. Nymphs will be smaller and turn into adults about one to two weeks after hatching. Most lice will feed many times a day, andthey can live as long as two days off the scalp.

3. Scratching

Scratching and itching will follow the bites of the lice. The itching won’t always start immediately, however, as it depends on how sensitive the child’s skin is to the lice. Sometimes it can take weeks before they start itching. The children could, however, complain of things tickling or moving around on their heads.

4. Red Bumps

Some children might have mild irritation, while others will have a bothersome rash. The excessive scratching can lead to a bacterial infection, causing swollen lymph glands and tender, red skin which might ooze and have crusting. Your doctor might in this case treat the infection with an oral antibiotic.

You can watch the video below to see how to check for lice yourself:

How to Treat Head Lice

1. Medication

It is likely that your doctor will recommend over-the-counter medication which kills head lice and their eggs. Recently laid eggs may not be killed by these medications. An appropriately timed second treatment is therefore usually necessary to kill the nymphs after they hatch, but before they mature into adults.

Some studies say that the ninth day after the first treatment is the time when you should do the second treatment, but there are other schedules for retreatment. Talk to your doctor to get a recommended treatment schedule or for written instructions.

  • ŸOCT medication

Medication

Description

Permethrin (Nix)

This is a synthetic version of pyrethrin. Possible side effects can include itching of the scalp and redness.

Pyrethrin with additives (Rid, A-200 Lice Killing)

Here, pyrethrin is mixed with an additional chemical that raises its toxicity to kill lice. Side effects could include redness of the scalp and itching. It shouldn’t be use if your child is allergic to ragweed or chrysanthemum.

  • ŸPrescription medication

Medication

Description

Benzyl alcohol (Ulesfia)

This isn’t toxic to lice, but will kill them by depriving them of oxygen. Possible side effects could include itching of the scalp and redness. This treatment is not approved for children under six months of age since benzyl alcohol use to disinfect medical devices has been known to cause seizures or other severe reactions in newborns.

Malathion (Ovide)

This is approved for anyone six or older. You apply the medicated shampoo and let it dry naturally, rinsing out after eight to twelve hours. It has a high content of alcohol, so don’t use it with a hair dryer or near an open flame.

Lindane

A medicated shampoo which has a risk of severe side effects such as seizures, and is used only when other treatments haven’t worked. Children, anyone under 110 pounds or pregnant or breast-feeding women, anyone with an HIV infection or has a history of seizures should not use this product.

2. Home Remedies

  • Combing hair while wet

You may be able to remove some of the lice and nits by combing the hair while wet. You’ll want to add something like conditioner to lubricate the hair. Comb the whole head from the scalp to the hair ends twice or more. Repeat these steps every three to four days for several weeks.

You can watch the video below to know the specific instruction for head lice remove by combing:

  • Using essential oils

Some clinical studies have shown that natural plant oils may have an effect that is toxic on eggs and lice. These products include anise oil, tea tree oil, ylang ylang oil and nerolidol which is a chemical compound found in a lot of plant oils. These products don’t have to meet efficacy, safety and manufacturing standards that are used for drugs approved by the FDA.

  • Smothering the lice

Several household products can be used to treat infestations of head lice.The idea behind them is that they deprive the incubating eggs and the lice of air. Apply the product to the hair and cover with a shower cap, then leave on overnight. You can use olive oil, mayonnaise, butter or petroleum jelly for this method.

How to Prevent Reinfestation of Head Lice

There are some simple steps that you can take to get rid of lice and their eggs, plus help to prevent a reinfestation.

  • Wash any clothing and bed linens that have been recently used by anyone who is infested in very hot water, then put them in the dryer’s hot cycle for at least twenty minutes.
  • Anything that can’t be washed should be dry cleaned, such as stuffed animals. You can also put them in airtight bags for three days or more.
  • Vacuum any upholstered furniture or carpets in your home and car, then throw away the bag of the vacuum.
  • Soak any items for your hair like barrettes, combs, headbands, hair ties and brushes in rubbing alcohol or shampoo that is medicated for one hour. You can wash them as well in hot water or just get new ones.

Since lice are pretty easily passed from one person to another in the same home, infested family members and bedmates will need treatment as well to prevent the lice from returning.

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