Head lice are every mother’s nightmare. They are time consuming to get rid of, and seem to be able to stage multiple come backs. They are an affliction of the summer months, with head lice season running from around September through to June. The little critters even seem to love going back to school in January after the summer holidays.
How do head lice spread?
Head-to-head is by far the most common way of transmitting lice, which is why they spread easily among younger children. Infestation can also occur through sharing hats, combs, clothing and swimming towels.
Signs of head lice
If your child complains of itching around the ear and neck hairline area, lice may be the problem. To make sure, use a fine tooth comb and a magnifying glass, and comb through the hair onto a tissue. Using a magnifying glass is more effective than a simple visual examination. An adult louse is a crawling insect about the size of a pin head. It has six legs and grasps the hair with claws. Lice are clear in colour when they hatch but turn reddish-brown once they start feeding on the blood of their hosts. Head lice may also be indicated if one finds tiny, black spots on bed pillows, sheets or clothing near the neckline and shoulders. These black spots consist of digested blood excreted by a head louse after feeding.
Female lice lay small yellowish-white eggs (nits). The nits are oval-shaped and are attached at angles to the sides of the hair shafts. After hatching the female louse is ready to mate in 7 to 10 days and will then start laying her nits in another 7 to 10 days.
Head lice are only spread by close contact. They crawl quickly but do not hop, jump or fly. They normally don’t separate from their human hosts. If separated from their hosts, they die from starvation in approximately 24-48 hours.
They favour the nape of the neck and the area behind the ears where they usually lay their eggs, so this is where you should check for signs of infestation. Many head lice infections cause no symptoms, so it is better to look for head lice than to rely on itching and scratching of the scalp.
The presence of lice does not indicate poor hygiene. Nor do they have a preference for long or short hair. Swimming, normal bathing and using a regular shampoo will not prevent or eliminate head lice problems.
Treating head lice
Apart from killing and combing out the head lice and nits to avoid re-infestation, it also helps to:
- Treat all household members simultaneously when an infestation has been identified.
- Wash bed linen and swimming towels and dry on high heat in a dryer.
- Sanitize hair brushes, combs and hair ties at least once a week.
- Check coat collars, hoods, hats and scarves for lice and nits.
What shampoo should I use for head lice?
Controlice has a range of products you can use to treat your child’s hair. For more information on this product contact Nativa on 012 664 7110 or [email protected] or visit the website on www.nativa.co.za.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day.