What are head lice?
Where do they come from?
How do we get them?
Are children the only ones who get head lice?
Isn’t it a sign of being dirty?
Will it help if I wash my child’s hair daily?
What about putting lots of gel on the child’s hair?
How do I know for sure that my child has head lice?
What if I find head lice?
How bad is the problem?
Why has it become such a problem?
Is there any danger?
Head lice are tiny six-legged blood-sucking parasites. Each leg is equipped with a claw, enabling the lice to grasp onto the shaft of the child’s hair. They can vary in color from grayish white to reddish brown. Head lice, like chameleons, have the ability to adapt to their environment.
The female louse lays her eggs by gluing them to your hair shafts. She will produce approximately 200 eggs in her lifetime. Eggs, or nits as they’re commonly called, generally hatch in 7 to 10 days. Once hatched, they have a life expectancy of approximately 30 days.
Lice are wingless and cannot jump or fly. They can, however, move with amazing speeds. They depend on human blood for survival. A louse separated from its human host will rarely survive more than 24 hours.
No one knows for sure. Evidence of lice existence has been documented as far back as ancient times.
In most all cases lice are transmitted from one human host to another, brought about mainly as a result of head-to-head contact.
Certain people just seem to attract lice. Head lice are always on the lookout for a favorable environment.
There are many factors that draw head lice to one individual over another. Blood type and Rh factor are among them.
While it’s more commonly spread among children, parents and other adults are not immune.
When hair has contact with another’s hair (and it will), if that person has lice and you are a favorable environment, you take the risk of exposing yourself to an uninvited houseguest.
Head lice actually prefer a clean head of hair. Lice, however, are not prejudicial. A louse’s only concern is for its own survival. To accomplish this, the louse needs to feed and is always looking for the most convenient means of doing so.
This is nice in theory but wrong in actuality. Since nits are glued to the hair, all the brushing and washing on earth won’t change that fact. The eggs are coated with a fixative substance, which literally cements them to the hair shaft. They are blood-sucking parasites with crab-like claws. They can attach themselves to your hair and will hang on for dear life.
While we hear this question a lot, we strongly discourage it. It does nothing to prevent head lice. It’s far simpler to take a few extra minutes to brush the hair and pull it back, thus closing the bridge that invites a louse over.
The most obvious way is the usual itchy scalp so commonly, but not always, found in head lice cases. The only way to confirm your suspicions, however, is by a thorough examination of your child’s hair. Making head lice exams a part of your regular routine will allow you to identify the problem at its onset and thus prevent head lice from taking over your family, your home and your life.
If you do find head lice on your child’s head, take care of the problem right away. Each day wasted is an increased opportunity for reproduction, not to mention the additional chances of spreading to others.
How you treat the problem is entirely up to you. There are a lot of products on the market but remember, many of these are pesticides. If you feel you must use them, do so sparingly, and be careful to follow all directions. Whether you choose a pesticidal shampoo product or go with one of the newer non-toxic products, it is important to understand that 100% removal cannot occur without hours of painstakingly picking all of the nits out.
Thankfully, many new products have been developed, helping to ease your burden. Among this new generation of lice combs is the Terminator comb. Its patented design helps parents eliminate some 85% of their child’s lice and nits.
Another product that continues to draw attention is the Robi Comb. Be careful, however, that while the Robi Comb has proven to be helpful in eliminating live lice (particularly adults), it does little, if anything, to rid the nits.
If the thought of all this is making you crazy, as is true with Lice Solutions, there are several other companies offering nit removal services. While in most cases a cost will occur, the end result is often having it done right the first time, in less time and at a substantial savings compared to the parents’ failed attempts to end their problem. If you are fortunate enough to have nit removal services in your area, don’t hesitate to ask them questions.
- How long have you been providing this service?
- Where did you receive your training?
- What method of nit removal do you use?
- Is your treatment process safe?
- What is your success rate?
- Do you provide followup?
- What guarantees, if any, do you offer?
- What about other family members?Do you check them as well, and if so, is there a charge?
- Be wary of any service that claims to have a 100% success rate, and remember a truly efficient service will also examine the heads of all members of the family.
One last point and probably the most important of all, be careful to notify anyone that might have come in contact with your child.
Head lice are one of the number one reasons for absenteeism in schools across the country.
It’s impossible to know exactly how many cases of head lice there are each year. Statistics derived from product sales, however, suggest that the U.S. alone sees over 12 million cases of head lice each year. It is estimated that parents spend 150 million dollars annually trying to be rid of this problem. The cost is far greater when you factor in the missed wages that often occur as a result of parents being forced to miss work while tending to their child’s head lice problem.
How bad is the problem? Bad enough to wreak havoc around the world! Bad enough to pit parents against school administrators. Bad enough for children to accept the blame and shame for a problem in which they have little control over.
Head lice are insects and like other insects, repeated exposure to chemicals over an extended period of time has allowed the lice to build up a resistance to the very products once used to kill them.
Another important factor is the failure to follow through with precautionary measures. While mega cleaning is not necessary, and the environment does not play as important a role as it was once thought, you must still exercise common-sense cleaning. The best advice is to think of your life in a 24-hour window. Consider what items you had contact with in that time period and keep your focus on those items only. Remember, lice DO NOT live in your home. The problem is on your head and the heads of those around you. Additionally is the risk that parents just aren’t getting it all out. If nits are left on the hair to hatch, the cycle will start all over again. Equally important is the need to recognize and remove nymphs. Often as tiny as the tip of a very sharp pencil, nymphs grow to start families of their own. Finally, don’t forget it is a contact issue.
While resistance issues are considered a large factor, they are far from being totally responsible. As the pharmaceutical companies are quick to point out, the directions on the package are there for a reason. Unless you are willing to read and follow them in their entirety, you can’t expect the products to end the problem.
Keep in mind that head lice need blood to survive, so rather than stripping your sheets daily, running the vacuum three times a day and bagging every toy your child owns, your time is better spent checking and combing his or her head and communicating with those around you. Nit removal is a tedious enough job without overburdening yourself with unnecessary cleaning techniques. You need not drive yourself to a state of hysteria or have a nervous breakdown in an attempt to regain a normal lifestyle. One final note on all of this is to keep in mind how this affects your child. We don’t want children to feel that it’s their fault or to feel ashamed because they have head lice. It happens! We must stress that to the children as well. Deal with it, get over it, and go on with our lives!
For the most part, head lice themselves are an irritating problem. While in some cases their saliva can produce an allergic reaction among certain individuals, these reactions are usually mild compared to the risk involved with many shampoo products.
Products containing Lindane have caused the greatest concerns. Exposure to the neurotoxic product has been linked to seizures, developmental disabilities, hormone disruption and worse yet–cancer. Thanks to the EPA, one can no longer use Lindane as a source of treatment when dealing with our animals or our environment; as it is considered too dangerous an option. The only use, and I repeat, the ONLY use, still allowed, is as an ingredient in shampoos and lotions for the treatment of head lice and scabies. Thankfully, many states, including California, New York, and Michigan have taken this decision out of the FDA’s hands and banned the pharmaceutical use within their states.
Adding to the dangers is the fact that many parents fail to follow proper directions, leaving the shampoo on longer than recommended or re-treating too quickly. Improper treatment is one of the biggest causes of re-infestation and among the greatest dangers to your child. Another such danger, and one clearly marked on the shampoo packaging, is the danger in treating a child under the age of 3 or the use of such products by pregnant individuals.