Head lice are tiny brown insects with six short, stubbly legs. They’re about the size of a pin head and live on human heads, laying six to eight pearly white coloured eggs a day (commonly known as nits). The eggs are attached near the base of the hair shaft – a favourite spot is around the ears. Each louse takes two weeks to mature and lives for 20 to 30 days if undetected. The lice feed on blood, using their specially developed mouth-parts to pierce the scalp. They even inject a local anaesthetic into the scalp to prevent their host feeling any pain, and an anticoagulant to stop the blood clotting, thus making it easier for them to feed! They can eventually make your head feel very itchy because, after about 10,000 bites, your immune system becomes understandably irritated.
To check whether someone has head lice, dampen the hair and then bend the head over a plain sheet of paper.
Comb the hair thoroughly to see whether any insects drop out. Quickly part the hair to look out for moving lice. A magnifying glass will help.
Head lice can sometimes be a problem among schoolchildren. That’s because the head louse has never had it so good. We and our children are healthier and cleaner than we have ever been, and the head louse loves it. Clean, healthy heads provide it with the perfect environment for perpetuating its lifestyle. Every time a clean-headed child comes into contact with another child’s head as they play, the head louse moves from one head to another. Head lice can’t jump or fly, nor do they live in bedding, furniture or clothes. The only way they can be passed on is by close head contact – a single louse can visit several heads in one day just by walking from one to another.
So if you or your children have head lice, please don’t worry or feel ashamed. More than a million people a year in the UK get head lice, so there’s no point in being embarrassed about it. It’s also pretty well impossible to prevent children catching head lice from each other, as it’s nothing to do with them being dirty or neglected. Like measles, mumps and chicken pox, it’s just another of those things children are likely to catch once they start mixing with others.
If you have to deal with head lice, take the advice of your school nurse, pharmacist or health visitor, and use the lotions or shampoos they recommend. When applying a shampoo or lotion, remember to ensure that no part of the scalp is left uncovered; pay particular attention to the nape of the neck and behind the ears.
There are three main insecticides in use that kill head lice and their eggs – carbaryl, phenothrin and malathion. They are all equally effective if used according to the directions. But health authorities change their recommendations for louse treatment preparations every two to three years to prevent the lice building up a resistance to them. Your pharmacist can tell you what is currently in use in your area.
Bear in mind, too, that should a member of your family need treatment, you must treat the whole family – parents, grandparents, even lodgers – and then check them once a week to ensure they’re still clear. Make sure your children’s friends don’t have lice either or there could be a risk of reinfection. It’s wise – if not essential – to inform your child’s school if you discover head lice.
Then after treatment, encourage all your family to comb their hair thoroughly every day, since the female louse – and there are many more of them than the male – must cling on to two hairs to survive; as combing or brushing separates the hair, the louse will then die. Once dead, it falls off harmlessly.
Carylderm Derbac Shampoo, Full Marks Shampoo, Lyclear, Prioderm, Suleo-C Carbaryl Shampoo, Suleo-C Carbaryl Lotion, Suleo-M Malathion Lotion
Carylderm, Lyclear HEARTBURN See INDIGESTION AND HEARTBURN