Head lice are tiny wingless insects. They cannot fly or jump; neither can they burrow into the scalp. They can affect anyone, with long or short hair, no matter how clean the hair is.
Head lice infestation is very common. It can affect both children and adults. Here we would like to explain some facts about these little parasites which can affect all of us especially school children.
It is most important that each parent checks the whole family, including adults (as we all hug and cuddle our children we are not immune)! The adult louse is the size of a sesame seed, has 6 legs and is a tan or grey white colour and moves. The Nit (egg) is a yellow/ white oval shape, easily mistaken for “dandruff” but is stuck to the hair. The gestation period (before hatching) for this immature egg is 7 days, therefore, it is essential that the treatment is repeated after this time to kill off the newly hatched eggs.
After a couple of weeks, the immature louse becomes an adult and will grow no bigger than 2mm. The adult Louse can live on the human scalp for 30 days having constantly laid up to 6 eggs a day.
Head lice can be a nuisance, especially for school aged children. Contrary to popular belief they are neither a sign of poor hygiene nor can they jump or fly!!! Lice will only transfer directly from one hair shaft to another person’s hair to a source of food (the scalp blood), by walking. The best way of preventing re-infestation in schools where the problem is severe, is a treatment programme to be carried out by the parents on all children at the same time.
I make a point of checking my children at least once a week whilst in the bath and their hair is wet. Starting from the nape, I make small partings with a comb moving quickly towards the front hairline (in case a louse is just ahead of my comb, moving very quickly).
The sufferer will have an itchy scalp which will cause the person to scratch both the head and the back of the neck, which can become red and irritated. There may be a crawling sensation as the bugs move across the scalp to feed. The person may see the Lice in the hair or their eggs (nits).
While the itching is the main symptom of head lice this alone does not mean that you have Head lice as it may be eczema or dandruff which can also irritate the scalp.
On the other side of the coin you may have head lice and be unaware of an itch for a few weeks until the nits have hatched and the crawling sensation begins.
There are various treatments available over the counter from pharmacies; however, lotions are much more efficient than shampoos. Nit combs have much smaller and finer teeth for removing the eggs which can also be done by using a conditioner and sliding the eggs down the hair shaft with the forefinger and thumb, on longer hair this could be a timely hobby! It is important to remove dead lice 2-3 days later with a comb, then after 7-10 days treat with preparation again- to ensure all lice are gone.
Long hair is best worn plaited or tied up. It is both the movement of the louse across the scalp, which can be quick, and it pierced the skin to feed that causes the feeling of itching to the sufferer. In untreated and extreme cases, head lice cause a secondary infection, impetigo, which is highly contagious and often require antibiotics.
If you have previously or are currently experiencing Head lice please treat at home and when completely clear contact Sussex Trichology. We can help to calm down any irritation caused by an infestation and nurse your scalp back to full health.