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What are head lice?

Head lice or pediculosis is an infection that is due to the presence of tiny pin head-sized, wingless, brown-grey insects. These insects live in the head by sucking blood from the scalp. Their eggs looks like small white specks stick to the scalp and are known as nits. The eggs hatch after one week and become mature lice after 2 weeks. Once mature, they start to reproduce alarmingly. This infection affects only humans and it cannot be passed on to or caught from animals. It is common in school going children, particularly between the ages of 4 to 11, but anyone with hair can catch or spread it.

 

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of head lice include:

  • Irritation in hairs
  • Frequent itching of the scalp
  • Sores from scratching

 

Causes

Head lice are transferred by close hair-to-hair contact. A louse itself cannot jump, fly, or swim, but it may walk from one hair to another. It is a false impression that head lice infestation is a result of poor hygiene and dirty hair. Indeed, head lice can be found in long and short hair of any hair type.

 

Head Lice Treatment

Head lice are difficult to remove because of their tiny size, high reinfestation rate, cycle of life, and their ability to develop immunity to insecticides. But on the other hand, it is very important to treat the head lice quickly and thoroughly or they can become a persistent and chronic problem. Below is a list of recommended treatments for head lice:

 

  • Wet combing method: Head lice can be treated by using a wet comb with medicated lotions or even without using the chemicals. This method is very effective for removing head lice.

 

  • Medicated lotion or rinse: Ask your pharmacist for an over-the-counter (OTC) insecticide lotion or crème rinse recommended for head lice removal. Remember to use a lotion only if you find a living, mature head louse. Apply the preparation according to the instructions and remove the lice and eggs with a fine-toothed nit comb. Be careful when applying treatment as the preparations are highly toxic. It is recommended to treat once and repeat the treatment in one week.

 

  • Complementary therapies: Other recommended treatments for head lice are complementary and alternative therapies such as tea tree oil. But there is no proof of the effectiveness of these methods

 

Anyone can catch head lice and there is no prevention for it other than normal hair care and periodic checking of your own and your family's hair and scalp. If you suspect head lice do not delay start one of the recommended treatments right away.