Head lice are miniature, wingless insects that suck blood. They thrive in the hair on the head and feed on the blood from the scalp.
It is important to note that head lice are highly contagious. One can become infected once the insects crawl onto the head. Ways in which head lice spreads include:
- Sharing of personal items
- Touching your head to an infested individual’s head
- Using fabrics such as bed linens
Do I have head lice?
The usual signs of head lice generally include:
- Excessive itchiness of the scalp
- Feeling that something is crawling on the scalp
- Sores and scabs on the scalp due to scratching
There are various treatment options available used in dealing with head lice. Most of these treatments might be repeated twice. The second treatment is usually performed after a week to 9 days which aims on eliminating any newly hatched nits.
Both over-the-counter and prescription treatments for head lice are available. The chemicals that are widely used as over-the-counter treatment include:
- Pyrethrin – this is a pesticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers. It can be used for individuals ages 2 years and up.
- Permethrin – this is a synthetic pesticide that can be used for individuals 2 years and up.
The prescription treatment might include other chemicals such as:
- Malathion – this is an organophosphate pesticide that can be used to treat head lice for individuals 6 years up. As a flammable substance, avoid any sources of open flame and heat sources when the product is used.
- Benzyl alcohol lotion – this is an aromatic alcohol used to manage head lice among individuals 6 months and older.
- Lindane – this is an organochloride pesticide that is available as shampoo or lotion. This is considered as the last option since it can cause serious side effects.
For those who do not want to use pesticides, a fine-toothed lice comb can be used to get rid of the lice. Olive oil should be applied on the hair before combing so that the lice and nits will stick on the comb. Start at the scalp and work through the ends. The combing must be done every 2-3 days until there are no more lice or nits.
Treating the house
These measures can help get rid of lice on different objects:
- Launder bedding and clothes using hot water and dry with high heat in a dryer.
- Dry clean clothes and bedding
- Upholstered furniture and floors must be vacuumed regularly
- Seal bedding, clothes and stuffed toys in a plastic bag for 2 weeks
- Soak combs, brushes and other hair accessories in hot water for 5-10 minutes