What Are Head Lice?
The lice feed and grow on human hairs, especially on the scalp, and lay their eggs on the hair. The lice can be seen with the naked eye, although it is common to see the aggregates of eggs (called nits) attached to the shafts of hairs. To check that the structures attached to the hairs are indeed lice eggs, a fairly simple way is to attempt detaching the suspected nits away from the hair. In the case of nits, you will not succeed at that, but you can slide the nits along the length of the hairs. The lice feed on blood and die if they are not fed for a couple of days.
What Is Pediculosis Capitis?
The medical condition involving infestation with human lice is called pediculosis capitis. Head lice (lice is the plural of louse) is one of the commonest parasitic infestations involving infection with the adult mites and their eggs, leading to various degrees of skin and hair changes that may be mild to severe.
The infection mainly affects the pre-school and school children, with more girls being affected than boys. However, no age is exempted from this condition. It is the hygiene that matters most. The condition is diagnosed based on visual examination and symptoms. The infection spreads by direct and contact-mediated by shared objects, particularly combs and hairbrushes.
What Are the Symptoms of Head Lice Infestation?
The most frequent complaints in head lice infections are:
Please remember that many cases may be free of symptoms despite carrying the infection. Therefore, it is essential to trace the source of infection and treat all contacts simultaneously.
What Is the Treatment for Head Lice Infestation?
It makes good sense for the patient to have a haircut before starting the treatment.
Before starting treatment, it should be ensured that secondary infections in the form of ulcers, pus-filled lesions, and bumps have been adequately taken care of because the main treatment involves using medicines that may irritate the skin if used without controlling secondary infection first.
The treatment involves the application of medication to the whole scalp and all along the length of hairs after washing and combing with a fine comb having narrow spaces between the bristles. It must be left in place for one to two nights to have sufficient contact of medicine with the infected area.
From time to time, manual removal of nits with special combs is beneficial as it reduces the overall load of infection. All contacts should receive the treatment simultaneously.
The treatment should be repeated week after week as long as all live mites have been killed and the nits have been removed. This is generally ensured by simple visual scanning. Periodic examination of the scalp is necessary to prevent a recurrence.
It is equally important to treat the infected person’s head and scalp accessories appropriately to disinfect them. For example, the heat-resistant clothes can be machine washed using a hot cycle at a temperature of 54 degrees Celsius or higher in water for 20 minutes or sealed in plastic bags and stored for two weeks. Likewise, one can soak combs and brushes in alcohol or chemical disinfectant, dry them, seal them in plastic bags, and keep them again in the freezer for two weeks.
Over-the-counter shampoos and lotions can also help treat head lice. However, if these do not work, the doctor might recommend prescription shampoos to get rid of head lice, such as,
Benzyl alcohol lotion.
How Can We Prevent Head Lice Infestation?
The following measures might be followed adequately to prevent head lice infestation in children:
Educate your children to avoid sharing products like comb, hairbrushes, shawls, towels, helmets, caps, pillows, scarves, and sleeping bags. These products come in contact with the head, and if used following an infested child's usage, the risk of lice transmission is high.
Clean the areas that your child shares with other children and those they come in contact with, like the pillows, car seats, headphones, etc.
Make it a practice for your child to put hats and coats in a separate hook while hanging them in their school. Teach them to avoid piling the items that contact their head with other children.
Teach your child to minimize head-to-head contact with other children in school.
The children should be inspected for head lice at least once every week. The most common places where you can look for head lice are behind the ears, at the back of your child's head, or near the neck region. Wetting your child's hair can cause the lice to slow down, making inspection easy.
How Are Head Lice Different from Dandruff?
Dandruff is a condition that produces scales in the scalp and is called seborrheic dandruff. Unlike, it is believed, you cannot acquire dandruff from another individual. On the other hand, head lice are parasites transmitted from one person to another.
Head louse is a common manifestation in school-going children. Although not a severe condition, it can bring about itching and bump formation in children in severe cases. Also, it can be a disgusting condition that can cause the affected child to be neglected by their friends, which impacts the child's mental health. Therefore, constant evaluation for head lice in the child is needed, and also educating the child about the important ways to prevent head lice infestation is mandatory. Reach out to a healthcare provider when this problem persists for a more extended period even after taking the necessary treatment measures.
Frequently Asked Questions