Head lice infest children from all backgrounds and walks of life. Anyone can get head lice, no matter how clean their home or hair is or where they live, go to school, or play. All it takes is head-to-head contact with someone who has head lice.Head lice do not carry any diseases. They may cause itching in people who are allergic to head louse bites, which can lead to excessive scratching. This scratching may increase the chances of a secondary skin infection.
Head Lice – The Facts:
According to Hennessy, if you want to get rid of nits and head lice you need to understand the life cycle which works like this:
- Nits, the eggs, take seven to 11 days to mature and hatch.
- The baby louse take nine to 12 days to grow into an adult. A fully grown adult louse is the size of a sesame seed.
- Once an adult, it needs to find a mate.
- 24 hours after pairing the female lays her first eggs – and then keeps laying them day after day, after day, after day…
- Head lice die if they don’t have contact to fresh blood supply from the scalp within two days. So they will die on clothing, hats, sheets, towels etc within 48 hours if they do not have contact to the skin/scalp again.
Lice: Myth-Buster Ugly Truths
- Small but mighty. An adult louse can really move it! They can crawl 23 cm in a minute. #SlightlyDisturbing
- Studies have shown they prefer sweet blood and don’t like testosterone so females are more of a target than males. Seriously mother nature – are you a misogynist?!
- Lice are genetically programmed to look for new heads or hosts all the time.
- Head lice like clean, well groomed hair.
- 53% of people who have them don’t itch and if your child doesn’t itch you probably don’t look. To avoid getting caught out do a weekly or fortnightly check with a nit comb so you can catch them early.
- Nits are the eggs of head lice and can be hard to detect, this is what causes re-infection.
- Many people find that after clearing their child of nits, they’re all back three to four weeks later and this means they must have re-caught them from someone. However what this usually means is that they weren’t fully cleared in the first place. The lice might have been removed but not all the nits and 3 to 4 weeks later those nits have hatched and matured.
- To break this cycle you have to keep clearing both the nits as well as the lice out of the hair, day after day. If not, the nits hatch, mature, mate, they lay eggs, those eggs mature, hatch and so on.
- Adults don’t get lice? Myth. Years ago hair colour was more harsh, filled with chemicals that would kill lice however nowadays many colours, in addition to lice treatments, are too gentle to kill them.
- The average infestation is about 20 lice. During their 30 day life span, the female louse lays between 5 and 10 nits (eggs) each day, so the issue can easily escalate to hundreds, and even thousands.
- The female louse is to be admired – in a messed up way. After she has mated once, she doesn’t have to mate ever again. She simply keeps spare sperm in a special container in her body and uses it as she goes, laying eggs daily for the rest of her days (30 to be precise). Classy.
If you think your child has head lice, consider talking with your doctor to confirm the diagnosis and get advice on appropriate treatments. Natural remedies such as homeopathic shampoos that contain sodium chloride 10% may cause stinging when applied, and their effectiveness has not been proven.
Head lice myths.
1. Only people with bad hygiene get head lice.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint “ground zero” for an infestation, anyone who has head-to-head contact with an infested individual can become infested.
2. Home remedies are effective.
“We’ve seen people try using mayonnaise or olive oil, thinking that slippery hair will force the nits (eggs) or lice to slide off, but it doesn’t work that way,” says Garcia. She adds that because lice have sticky feet, they stay attached to hair until proper treatment removes them.
3. Lice can jump and fly.
They are crawlers, so you don’t need to worry about them leaping from head to head.
4. You can get lice by standing near somebody who has them.
Lice are only transmitted through hair-to-hair contact, so unless your head is touching the head of an infested person, you don’t have to worry about them spreading.
5. Over-the-counter shampoos will eliminate infestations.
“Genetic mutations have led to ‘Super lice’ that have become resistant to some of the most common treatments,” Garcia says. We use a combination of three elements to eradicate lice: organic shampoos, a sophisticated comb that catches all nits and bugs, and a special combing technique that makes sure we clean the entire hair strand.”
She adds that when families can’t eliminate the problem, they often shampoo repeatedly with lice shampoo.
“This can burn the scalp and further complicate the problem,” Garcia says.
6. Head lice transmit diseases.
They’re annoying and even creepy, but they don’t carry or spread diseases. They’re human parasites, though, meaning they feed off human blood obtained through the scalp. So, while they won’t infect you with anything, you do want to get rid of them as soon as possible (but you knew that).
7. You can kill lice on pillows, fabric and bedding by tying them up in a plastic bag for a few hours.
Because lice can hold their breath for up to eight hours, Three Blind Lice recommends instead a light vacuuming of the furniture and home and placing pillows and bedding in a high-heat dryer for 30 minutes. Isolating them from their food source — human scalps — and heat is what kills them.
8. Pets spread lice.
Lice attach themselves to human hair, not animal fur, so don’t worry about shampooing the dog, cat or gerbil.
9. Head lice can live on upholstery, bedding and other fabric.
Adult lice can survive for only about a day or so without feeding off a human scalp, while baby lice can survive just for a few hours. The recommended light vacuuming and hot dryer treatment should eliminate any worries.
10. African-Americans can’t get head lice.
It’s less common in African-Americans—possibly because of the shape of the hair shaft—but head lice can attach to all human hair. As long as it can cling to hair, it is an equal opportunity insect.
Only some people are allergic to louse saliva, which causes the scalp to itch in some people.2 Minor itching can also be a side effect of some head lice treatments.Because they need to feed on blood to survive, head lice will only live 1 or 2 days away from the human host.