Head lice are small six legged creatures that have no discriminatory issues; they can affect anyone of any age, race, class or sex. They are tiny insects that live on the base of the hair and feed off the scalp by burrowing down and consuming the blood. They have tiny claws that enable them to hold on tight to the hair and can only be transmitted from direct contact. They do not jump, fly or spray eggs into the hair of others.
They are very common in school children and cause sufferers to usually have an itchy scalp, which can become sore or dry from excessive scratching.
They are difficult to see due to their small size, and often disguise themselves by being a similar colour to their host’s hair. The eggs are even smaller and appear near to the root and are quite dull in appearance. If you think you have found an egg along the shaft of the hair, it is probably a hatched egg; they are normally shiny and paler in appearance.
A weekly check of the head using a fine-toothed nit comb should determine whether head lice are present. It is easier to ask some else to check your head as it is very tricky to check each section of your own hair properly.
Female lice can lay several eggs in the hair which will not hatch until seven days have passed. These eggs take a further seven days to mature when they can lay their own eggs. This cycle shows how quickly infestations can build-up.
There are many products available from the chemist, who will be able to advise on the most appropriate selection. Some require use on wet hair, others dry; it is important to follow the instructions properly. Most are pesticides and should not be used when pregnant, breast-feeding or on babies hair.
As the eggs hatch seven days after being laid, a repeat application is normally required after this time, as often the eggs are not harmed by the solution.
New recommendations suggest that as the lice are becoming more resistant to the lotions, an alternative technique should be used. Try smothering hair in normal hair conditioner and brushing to remove tangles, then section by section use the nit comb, wiping clean with every stroke. The lice cannot grip when the hair is covered with conditioner. This process should be repeated every day until the lice have been eliminated; this also reduces exposure to pesticides.
Head lice cannot live without the warmth and nutrition of the scalp for longer than a day or two, so it is not necessary to discard bedding and towels.
Hair should be kept tied back when at school or in a social gathering. It is sensible to keep hair short, with shoulder length being acceptable for girls.
Check the head with the conditioner and nit comb technique weekly.
Head lice are not a sign of poor hygiene or of social class as myth suggests. Lice can affect anyone and should be treated as soon as possible to prevent the spread to others.