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Head Lice: Causes, Symptoms and Prevention

Head Lice

 

  • Head lice are parasitic insects that live in the hair and scalp of humans. They need human blood to survive.
  • Head lice are spread easily from person to person by direct contact.
  • Head lice can infest anyone, regardless of personal hygiene.
  • Head lice are usually treatable with lice-killing sprays such as LiceNo.
  • To prevent infection: 1. avoid direct contact with the head, hair, clothing, or personal belongings of a person with head lice, and 2. treat affected persons, their contacts, and their households.

 

What are head lice?

Head lice are parasitic insects that live in the hair and scalp of humans. The scientific name for head louse is Pediculus humanus capitis. Another name for infestation with head lice is pediculosis.  Head lice develop in three forms: nits, nymphs, and adults.  Nits: Nits are head lice eggs.  They are hard to see and are often mistaken for dandruff or droplets of hairspray.  Nits are found firmly attached to the hair shaft. They are oval and usually yellow to white.  Nits take about 1 week to hatch.  Nymphs: Nits hatch into nymphs. Nymphs are immature adult head lice. Nymphs mature into adults about 7 days after hatching.  To live, nymphs must feed on blood.  Adults: An adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed, has six legs, and is tan to greyish-white. In persons with dark hair, adult lice will look darker.  Adult lice can live up to 30 days on a person’s head.  To live, adult lice need to feed on blood. If a louse falls off a person, it dies within 2 days.

 How are head lice spread?

Head lice are spread easily from person to person by direct contact.  People can get head lice by coming into close contact with an already infested person.  In children, contact is common during play, while riding the school bus, and during classroom activities in which children sit in groups close to each other.  Wearing infested clothing, such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, or hair ribbons, using infested combs, brushes, sharing towels, lying on a bed, couch, pillow, carpet, or stuffed animal that has been contaminated.  Lice do not jump or fly.  Lice are not spread to humans from pets or other animals.

What are the signs and symptoms of head lice?

Itching – the body’s allergic reaction to the bite
Irritability

How is head lice infestation diagnosed?

Head lice infestation is diagnosed by looking closely through the hair and scalp for nits, nymphs, or adult lice.  Nits are the easiest to see.  They are found “glued” to the hair shaft.  Unlike dandruff or hairspray, they will not slide along a strand of hair.  If you find nits more than 1/4 inch from the scalp, the infection is probably an old one. Nymphs and adults can be hard to find, there are usually few of them, and they can move quickly from searching fingers.  If lice are seen, finding nits close to the scalp confirms that a person is infested.  If you are not sure if a person has head lice, the diagnosis should be made by the local health department or a health-care provider, school nurse, or agricultural extension service worker.

Who is at risk for head lice?

Anyone can get head lice.  Pre-school- and elementary-school-aged children and their families are infested most often.  Girls get head lice more often than boys, and women more often than men.

What is the treatment for head lice infestation?

Getting rid of head lice requires treating the individual, the family, and the household.  Treat the individual and the family – This requires using LiceNo.  [please read our product info] Treat only persons who are infested.  Follow these treatment steps:

  • Remove all clothing.
  • Apply LiceNo spray according to instructions.  If the affected person has extra-long hair, you may need to use a second bottle.
  • WARNING: Do not use a crème rinse or combination shampoo/conditioner before using LiceNo. Do not re-wash hair for 12 hours after treatment.
  • Have the affected person put on clean clothing after treatment.
  • LiceNo will work after one treatment.  Spray the hair and roots until you are satisfied you have all the area on the scalp.  Spray also through long hair!
  • Put on a head cover or a towel for the night.
  • In the morning, have a good shower and shampoo.   
  • All head lice will be gone.  Keep extra on hand for a possible attack at a later date.
  • LiceNo is good for the hair and the scalp.
  • Check all treated persons until you are sure all lice and nits are gone.

Treat the household:

  • To kill lice and nits, machine wash all washable clothing and bed linens that the infested person touched during the 2 days before they were diagnosed. Wash clothes and linens in the HOT water cycle (130 F). Dry items on the hot cycle for at least 20 minutes.
  • Dry clean clothing that is not washable (coats, hats, scarves, etc.). 
  • Seal all non-washable items (clothing, stuffed animals, comforters, etc.) in a plastic bag for 2 weeks.
  • Soak combs and brushes for 1 hour in rubbing alcohol or Lysol, or wash with soap and hot water.
  • Vacuum the floor and furniture.  

How common is head lice infection?

Head lice is a very common condition, especially among children ages 3-10. As many as 6 million to 12 million people worldwide get head lice each year. Outbreaks of head lice occur often in schools and group settings worldwide.

 Is head lice an emerging infectious disease?

Yes. Head lice is an increasing problem because lice-killing medicines are becoming less effective.

 How can head lice be prevented?

  • Educate parents and schools about head lice. All parents should know that outbreaks of head lice have nothing to do with a family’s income, social status, or level of personal hygiene.
  • Avoid direct contact with a person who has lice, or with their clothing or personal belongings.
  • Watch for signs of lice, such as frequent head scratching. Nits do not cause symptoms, but they can be seen on the hair shaft; they are yellow-white and oval-shaped.
  • Teach children not to share combs, brushes, scarves, hair ribbons, helmets, headphones, hats, towels, bedding, clothing, or other personal items.
  • Examine household members and close contacts of a person with head lice, and treat if infested.
  • Make sure schools, camps, and child-care centres provide separate storage areas (cubbies or lockers) and widely spaced coat hooks for clothing and other personal articles. They should assign sleeping mats and bedding to only one child and store these separately. They should wash dress-up clothes and play costumes between use by different children. During an outbreak, costumes should not be used in the classroom.
  • Exclude children with head lice from school or day care according to the institution’s policy.

Head lice are parasitic insects that live in the hair and scalp of humans. They need human blood to survive.

  • Head lice are spread easily from person to person by direct contact.
  • Head lice can infest anyone, regardless of personal hygiene.
  • Head lice are usually treatable with lice-killing shampoos and crème rinses.
  • To prevent infection: 1) avoid direct contact with the head, hair, clothing, or personal belongings of a person with head lice, and 2) treat affected persons, their contacts, and their households.