The truths about head lice

One louse, many lice and before you know it the whole family is infected.

Lice are wingless insects spending their entire life on the human scalp and feeding on tiny amounts of blood. Many people believe having head lice means you are dirty, but this is simply not true! As a result of this myth, there is a social stigma attached to head lice but it is a very common problem especially among kids. Lice is highly contagious and sometimes tough to get rid of.

However lice are not dangerous and they do not spread disease.  Their bites can make the child’s scalp itchy and scratching can lead to infections.  They are best treated as quickly as possible as they can spread rapidly from person to person.

What are the signs of Head Lice?

 They can be seen by the naked eye even though they are extremely small.  The nits (lice eggs) are tiny white to yellowish dots before hatching and are found on the hair shafts closest to the scalp.  Here they are kept warm until hatching within 1 to 2 weeks of being laid.  Nits cannot be removed by brushing the hair.  Nits are often mistaken for dandruff as the shells remain clinging to the hair even as it grows.

 How does a child get head lice?

 Children in contact with someone who is already infested can be at risk of getting it as it is very contagious.   They may be in personal contact during play or by wearing infested clothing such as scarves, hats even hair ribbons.  Encourage your child not to share combs or brushes.

It is easy to transmit head lice from one person to another. Preschool and primary school children, ages 3 to 10 years, together with their families are most often infected. Girls also run a higher risk of contracting head lice than that of boys.

How to get rid of head lice?

Unfortunately there is no quick easy process and it takes at least 2 weeks of cleaning and monitoring the hair to ensure that they are gone and a re-infestation does not occur.

A number of over the counter lice shampoos are available from your local pharmacy.  If the child is under 2 years of age, it may be best to consult with a paediatrician before beginning the treatment.  There are also natural herbal products available which work safely and contain no pesticides or toxic chemicals.  Use the shampoo together with a lice comb to ensure the removal of the nits from the hair shafts.  A follow up treatment may be necessary.   It is also advisable to treat the whole family to prevent a re-occurrence of head lice.

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