The Annoyance of Head Lice

Fall is almost in full swing, and along with the friends your kids are bringing home after school, some more unwelcome house guests might be brought along as well – head lice.

Head lice are small parasitic insects that, when found, are usually on children who are attending daycare or school. They live in the hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes of their hosts and feed several times a day by biting the scalp and ingesting blood. While they are known to spread quickly, they do not jump or fly, but crawl and cling to hair, and are often spread through head-to-head contact with an infested person. Infestations grow quickly, with females being able to lay up to 10 eggs a day.

These nits, as eggs are known, are laid around the base of the hair shaft and may look like dandruff or scabs. After they hatch, they will grow to be about the size of a sesame seed and appear as tan or white specks that can be seen crawling around the roots of the hair. If they are left undisturbed, they can live up to 30 days on their host, but if they are knocked loose, they will starve and die within 1-2. However, due to their specially designed legs, lice are relatively difficult to simply shake out and usually must be killed with medicated shampoos.

While a few lucky people may be asymptomatic to these pests, most people will experience some form of distress from them. Often, these symptoms include a tickling feeling in their hair, itchy scalp, and/or difficulty sleeping. Lice are most active during the night, so if your sound sleeper suddenly can’t get their 8 hours in, it might be time to check their heads. If you do find evidence of an infestation, though, don’t panic, as lice can be treated with over the counter products.

When tackling an invasion of lice, it is recommended that all members of the household be checked and treated accordingly. Before medicating, machine wash and dry all bedding and clothing in hot water, or seal them in plastic bags for two weeks. Also, be sure to thoroughly vacuum all floors and furniture. When using a medicated shampoo, remember to not use hair conditioner directly before or after application and don’t wash hair for one to two days after treatment. Doing either of these may affect the potency of the shampoo and allow some lice to survive. As with all over the counter medications, use lice treatment as according to box directions. After application, you should feel some relief within 8-10 hours.

If you don’t feel relief or if you seem to have repeated infestations, don’t hesitate to stop by one of our clinics or make an appointment.