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What Are Lice, And Where Do They Come From?

what are lice

What Are Lice?

To put it simply, lice are parasites. There are various types of body lice, but we deal with head lice. Head lice are most common in children, especially as their social circles expand. Lice are primarily transmitted via head-to-head contact – think of kids laying down in a classroom for story time. Less than 5% of active cases are contracted through the sharing personal items like hats, scarves, and brushes.

Lice can be hard to see because they are very small – adult lice are roughly the size of a sesame seed. Keep an eye on your children and know the signs and symptoms of a lice infection.

How Do Lice Survive?

Lice feed on human blood, and can only live off the human body for up to 24-48 hours. When someone has head lice, generally you’ll find adult lice as well as nits (eggs) in the hair. One female louse can lay up to 10 eggs per day, and typically travel in harems of 8 females to one male. They attach to the shaft of the hair by a sticky substance that the female leaves behind. Nits can be extremely difficult to remove because of this substance, which is why you want a well-made metal comb to get rid of them.

The CDC estimates that there are 12 million cases of lice every year in the US for kids aged 3-11.

Where Do Lice Come From?

Honestly, no one really knows. Lice have been around for centuries, and have continued to spread. With people moving closer to each other, kids going to school together, and increased opportunities for social interaction, lice continue to survive. Because of the way their claws are constructed, lice can only move around on human hair to crawl and hang on. They cannot efficiently attach themselves to environmental surfaces or fabrics. Human head lice can only thrive on the human head.

How Do I Get Rid of Lice?

If your child comes home with lice, you’ll want to wash their hair and apply conditioner. Take a well-made comb and slowly pass it through their hair, from roots to end. Wipe the comb on a white paper towel after every pass. It’s the only way to successfully remove adult lice and the nits from hair.

Beware the popular lice removal products that are available, as many contain chemicals that we wouldn’t recommend you use on your children.

The Best Lice Combs You Can Buy

There are a lot of lice combs out in the market! It can be confusing to know which one you should buy when your child comes home from school with lice and you’re looking for treatment options quickly.

When it comes to buying lice combs, the factors you should take into consideration are;

  • Construction (how well made it is)
  • Effectiveness in removing lice and eggs

Stay away from any combs that have teeth that are short and/or made of plastic, those won’t be helpful at all. Here are two recommendations of lice combs that we feel are the best you can buy!

lice combs

Nit Free Terminator Lice Combs

This is absolutely the best lice comb you can buy. It’s made incredibly well, and is comfortable to use. It has a no-slip grip on it so you won’t have any trouble using it, even after putting conditioner in your child’s hair. The comb is laser cut, and guarantees that the teeth won’t move or separate, even after many uses. This comb will not only remove the lice, but also the tiny nits that stick to the hair.

LiceMeister Lice Combs

Another option is the LiceMeister Comb. It’s a well-constructed metal comb that will serve you well in lice treatment and prevention. The handle is fully sealed and doesn’t have any edges that may catch on hair as you use it.

In a comparison study done, the Nit Free Terminator was found to out-perform every other comb, including the LiceMeister and the combs that come with lice removal chemicals like Rid and Nix.

If your kids haven’t come home with lice yet, now is still a great time to purchase a lice comb for your home. Combing your child’s hair regularly with a lice comb is the best way to prevent a major outbreak of lice in your house.

Beware The Chemicals In Lice Removal Products

There are many well-known treatments for lice that can be bought over-the-counter, but do you really know what’s in them? There are a lot of chemicals in lice removal products. If you think about it, these products were created to kill bugs, which means they’re going to contain some pretty nasty chemicals. There are better and safer ways to get rid of lice!

chemicals in lice removal products

The popular brand Nix has the active ingredient Permethrin, which is used as an insecticide and is a neurotoxin. It’s a chemical that affects the nervous system, and can harm or kill animals like dogs and cats. Nix says you can only leave the product on for 10 minutes, and then when it likely doesn’t work, you can’t even reapply for another 7 days. Also, Nix only kills live lice and does nothing for the eggs, which means you’ll still have to do something else to remove the eggs from the hair. Why use something that could potentially harm your child, and doesn’t work?

Another popular brand is Rid, which also has Permethrin in it, and has Piperonyl butoxide (PBO) in the shampoo. While PBO isn’t a pesticide, it does enhance the strength of the Permethrin. PBO is also classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.

Headlice.org has a complete list of popular lice treatments and the chemicals they contain. Before you purchase a product like this for your children, you should do some research on the chemicals you’ll be using.

The best approach is wash the hair, apply conditioner, and then go through the hair with a well-constructed metal lice comb, wiping on a white paper towel in between passes. It can be time consuming (which is why you can call us to come help!) but it’s the most effective way to get rid of the lice, and especially the eggs.

Not sure if your child has lice? Check out the signs and symptoms, or give us a call for help.

How Do I Know If My Child Has Lice: Signs and Symptoms

We know that as parents you constantly worry about your kids bringing head lice home from school, summer camp or sleepovers. If you’ve never had to deal with lice personally, you’re probably wondering what signs and symptoms of head lice are that you should be looking for on your kids. Symptoms may not present themselves in the most common of ways, but there are some things you keep an eye out for. As always, the best prevention is regular hair checks and combing hair with a well-constructed metal lice comb.

 

symptoms of head lice

Common Symptoms of Head Lice

1. Itching

This is the most common of all symptoms of head lice that you should watch out for without actually checking your child’s hair. While not everyone hosting the critters will itch, it is an indication that should give parents a heads-up. This is the symptom that school nurses and summer camps will keep an eye out for, especially if the child is scratching frequently.

You always want to confirm a diagnosis of lice if you’re being told that they saw your child itching. Usually by the time this happens the individual has built up an intolerance to the bug saliva, and the infestation may have been present for more than a month.

2. Not Sleeping Well

Having an itchy scalp would keep anyone awake, and having head lice is no exception, especially since they are nocturnal creatures. You may find that your child is extra tired in the morning even after a full night’s sleep.

3. Red Bumps on the Scalp or Neck

The gross truth is that head lice feed on blood, so if you find that your child has red bumps on their neck or scalp, it could be because of lice bites. Keep an eye out for red bumps behind their ears, along their hairline and on the back of their neck.

4. The Appearance of Lice and Nits (Lice Eggs) in the Hair

To diagnose if your child has lice, do a thorough check of their hair. Lice and nits can be hard to spot because they can look like dirt or dandruff, and the bugs move quickly in the hair (about 9 inches in 60 seconds). The best way is to detect the buggers is to apply conditioner to damp hair, comb it through with a regular comb to smooth out snarls, then go through the hair with a well-constructed metal lice comb, wiping on a white paper towel between passes.

Adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed and can be reddish-brown to grayish in color. Nits are as tiny as a strawberry seed, are egg shaped and will be attached to the hair approximately 1/8  to 1/4 of an inch from the root, on one side of the hair shaft. They can be beige to black, difficult to comb out and will feel like a grain of sand when you run your thumb and index finger along it. Nits will not budge if you flick or blow on them. You will literally have to scrape one off with your fingernail.

If you do find lice, don’t worry! Don’t tear your house apart. Lice can’t live off the body for more than 24-48 hours because they need to feed on human blood every few hours, so they won’t live on your furniture or in your bedding. If you need any help at all with treatment or advice on cleaning, don’t hesitate to call us! We’ll come to your house and make sure that you and your children are treated without toxic chemicals or harsh medication.

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symptoms of head lice

Head Lice and Disease! Parents Need the FACTS!

Parents require correct information in separating fact from myth, regarding head lice treatment. Current research shows that the chemicals in products, such as Nix and Rid, no longer work! Pregnant/Nursing mothers and those with ragweed sensitivity need to avoid them. Sadly, they remain the most common “DIY” fix among parents in panic mode.

In light of this article, families affected by the strain of dealing with the lousy buggers need better resources:

The Itchy History Of Head Lice And Bacterial Pathogens

lice exposure

Lice Exposure from Summer Camp to Holiday Season Nightmare

Parents, if your child was exposed to head lice during Summer camp, symptoms can be hidden for over a month. If the hair is thick, perhaps even longer! This is a perfect environment for lots of head-to-head contact (which is the primary culprit for getting the little buggers). Camp staff are not trained to identify and remove lice correctly. Itching is not always the first sign of an existing infestation. If not properly  treated in a timely manner, what may have been a smaller nuisance in the late Summer/early Fall, can evolve into a Holiday Season nightmare for the entire family.

Summer camps admit head lice can be real headache .

Head Lice and School Vacation

Believe it or not, school vacations are a prime opportunity for head lice transmission. Quite often there are sleep-overs with friends and loved ones. Perhaps your child has been on a school trip with their sports team or dance troupe. Groups of children travelling and sleeping together set the stage for lots of head-to-head contact, which is predominantly how the critters get around.

For many, itching is often the last (or non-existent) symptom of head lice infestation. This occurs when the host has built up an intolerance to the bug saliva. You may not even discover the buggers for another 1-4 weeks after initial exposure! EEEEEWW!

Here is a bit of lice advice…

Boy Scratching14137609

13 gruesome things you probably didn’t know about head lice

Parents Need to Support Each Other…Get the Facts!

Headline: Lets talk head lice

Any one can get head lice and they can be easily treated, but it does require a consistent approach

For any parent leaving their children at school for the first time is an emotional milestone. How will they get on, will they make friends, love going and do well?

In my first blog last year I talked about the stigma of skin disease and how children can be treated at school, so please go back and read it again. The word stigma means “shame, disgrace, dishonour and humiliation”, there is one aspect of school life that can be associated with these words; head lice.

My granddaughter recently started school and I was picking her up with my daughter when I noticed the little visitors in her hair, my daughter was horrified and was talking to another mum who came out with the usual myths; “Oh I thought they were only found in dirty hair”. I also remember telling my youngest daughter’s teacher once that I had found head lice and you could feel the negativity and disgust from the other mothers in the room. Was I bothered – not at all, but many are.

Any one can get head lice and they can be easily treated, but it does require a consistent approach. I duly gave my daughter the advice to check the other two children and yes my other granddaughter aged 18 months also had them. My daughter was at the supermarket and thought she would ask at the pharmacist what she could use on the little one and was told by the pharmacist babies don’t get head lice they don’t have hair! As part of any skin assessment there should be a systematic approach to the assessment, which includes the scalp, and hair, which means as a children’s nurse I frequently find them. They can be missed though if you are not used to spotting the signs of an infestation, I was asked by a registrar once to look at a child’s scalp as he couldn’t find any skin disease causing the itchy scalp. He was horrified when I pointed out the head lice that had fallen on to the desk during his examination. So, let’s clear up some of the myths surrounding head lice:

·      They can’t fly, jump or swim but are spread by head-to-head contact, climbing from the hair of an infected person to the hair of someone else.

·      An infestation isn’t the result of dirty hair or poor hygiene. All types of hair can be affected, regardless of its length and condition.

·      Head lice only affect humans and can’t be passed on to animals or be caught from them.

How should these be treated? The following issues should be discussed with the parents and supported by additional information/resources:

·      Dispel the myths.

·      Define the terminology: nits or lice.

·      What do they look like?

·      How to detect them?

·      Life cycle of head lice.

·      Treatment options.

So lets start talking about head lice and dispel the myths and stigma associated with them.

Resources

British Association of Dermatologists. Head Lice, 2014. bad.org.uk/shared/get-file.ashx?id=207&itemtype=document (accessed 1 April 2016).

Community Hygiene Concern. CHCBug Busting. chc.org/homedir/mistakenadvice.cfm (accessed 1 April 2016).

NICE. Clinical Knowledge Summaries, Head Lice, 2015. cks.nice.org.uk/head-lice (accessed 1 April 2016).

NHS Choices. Head Lice, 2014. nhs.uk/Conditions/Head-lice/Pages/Introduction.aspx (accessed 1 April 2016).