Lice! The mere mention of these creepy crawlies can provoke an itching scalp no matter the fact that you own a lice-free, squeaky clean scalp. And with just cause. Lice are little wingless insects, no bigger than a sesame seed, that thrive amidst the warmth of our hair and the blood from our scalp. Although these insects pose no danger, bites from lice causes scalp irritation and itchiness, hence, the unremitting scratching, especially in the case of a heavy infestation.
Are lice a symptom of hygienic laxity? Not necessarily. Even a mildly lice-ridden condition would generally gross most people out; but, the truth is, it can happen to the best of us. Kids are the most susceptible.
The Life Cycle of a Louse
A female head louse can lay about 150-300 eggs, even if this female has only itself hatched two weeks ago. Talk about trumping a rabbit’s’ prolific abilities a thousand times over. The eggs take only 7-10 days to mature before hatching.
The eggs are the nits one sees on a strand of hair. Nits look like brownish to white dots and are stuck quite firmly at various hair lengths. The cream, tan, or brown dots on the hair shafts close to the scalp are gestating eggs that need warmth generated by a person’s scalp. After about a two week span, hair is longer and therefore the nits attached to the shafts are further away from the scalp. Notice that these are white. These means the nits have hatched to deliver a new crop of lice. The louse’s life cycle comes full circle every three weeks.
As long as lice have access to blood and warmth, they will be tenaciously ensconced on a head. One can practically feel them crawling about one’s head. <Brrrr! >> Lice can bite and feed off your scalp several times a day and can live up to two days without blood, after which they shrivel up from dehydration and die.
Of Lice and Kids
Children’s scalps seem to be more of a favourite haven for these bugs. Kids’ scalps are easier targets than adult heads. Being highly infectious, a louse’s favourite mode of transmission is head-to-head contact. Children play closely together so there should be times when their heads would invariably come into contact. Kids also tend to share personal items so that lice may be spread through infected combs and brushes, clothes, bed linens, hats, and the like and in settings conducive to sharing like day care centres, slumber parties, and school. So, no matter how meticulous you are on your child’s hygiene, lice always find a way.
Ridding Your Child of Head Lice
Knowing that lice can spread fast, check everyone (yourself included) in your household first for it. It doesn’t make sense to treat only your child when there may be other hosts walking around to reinfect a treated head. You should wash all beddings and linens of the infected prior to the treatment proper so lice can’t crawl back to the host head.
In case you are eyeing Fido for the dryer, know that cats or dogs are not viable lice hosts so these pets cannot pass them on to humans or be infected themselves. Their bug problems are of a different kind… fleas and ticks.
Before working on your child’s head or any lice-ridden head for that matter, arm yourself with two things: a special metal-toothed fine comb called a nit comb and a medicated hair product containing pediculicide, a chemical that many paediatricians approve of for its relative safety and efficacy.
First, consult your paediatrician on what specific pediculicide to use to zap those buggers. Once you have your medicated shampoo or mousse, apply as directed. Take heed of the cautionary guidelines which include not getting the medicine anywhere near the eye area or using different lice medications as the same time. Follow up the treatment with a comb out using the special nit comb. This will help rid the hair of dead lice and nits.
Unfortunately, there may be a few hardy lice with a resiliency equivalent to that of catastrophe survivors. You need to nuke them all with a second treatment ten days after the first application. If the second treatment doesn’t annihilate the lot, ask for stronger prescriptions from your doctor. As there have been reports of drug-resistant lice, he may prescribe stronger remedies which may include an oral medication.
One caveat: The above recommendation however does not apply to children two months old and younger. Infants and toddlers should not be subjected to medicated shampoos, gels, and lotions; rather, killing lice should be solely done manually with the use of the nit comb.
Lice infestation will be an on-going battle if the child goes to school or is in constant contact with some group that has not been “debugged.” In this case, one child’s infestation is everyone’s problem as lice can just reinfest any head, even an already treated one.