Head lice have been around for a very long time, plaguing both school children and adults of every social class. It is not a disgrace to have head lice, but it is a disgrace to keep them. The most effective way to deal with head lice is to learn all we can about them, treat them and prevent re-infestation and spreading. Outbreaks will continue to recur, if parents do not accept this responsibility in assisting the schools to control this intolerable problem.
Here are the facts one needs to know.
What are head lice?
- Greyish, parasitic insects, 1-3mm in size,
- Found in human hair
- More common in girls than boys, urban areas than rural areas, Caucasians than Africans.
- Lice feed on blood and inject saliva into the host.
- Extremely contagious
- Passed on by head to head contact or by sharing hats, hairbrushes, and clothing.
- Anyone can get Head lice!
NOTE: They do not jump from head to head.
Life Cycle Eggs are called nits.
- After mating, a female lays 6-7 eggs per day for the next 16 days!
- Nits are laid close to the scalp, and are “glued” to individual hairs.
- The eggs ‘nits’ hatch in 1 week.
- Within a few hours they begin to feed on blood in the scalp
- They die after 32-35 days.
Signs and symptoms?
- Itchy scalp.
- Nits can be seen firmly attached to the hair close to the scalp, usually behind the ears, around the neck and underneath the fringe.
- If not treated, skin infections like Dermatitis and impetigo may result.
How to treat lice
- There are a number of products on the market, available from pharmacies.
- Speak to a pharmacist or clinic sister for advice regarding which best to use.
- Success depends on follow up and use of preventative treatment on a regular basis.
- Products are designed to kill the lice and/or nits, but will not remove the nits from the hair.
- After completing the treatment, rinse hair with a solution of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water and ½ teaspoon of baby oil. This will make it easier to remove the nits.
- A fine toothed comb will remove most nits. Remaining nits must be removed with your fingers. In strong light, go through the hair, strand by strand, and slide the remaining nits between your finger and thumb nail, out of the hair.
- All bedding and clothing must be changed and then washed and ironed with a hot iron.
- After 7-10 days of initial treatment, it may be necessary to repeat treatment to kill any newly hatched lice. Treatment is necessary ONLY if lice are seen.
Remember, prevention is better than cure.
- Check your children’s hair regularly.
- Teach children not to share combs, brushes or hats.
- Girl’s long hair should be tied back.
- Brushing hair regularly can dislodge lice.
You cannot send your child back to school unless your child is checked by a clinic sister and a clearance certificate has been issued!