Head Lice Infestation - Health Center

Head Lice Infestation

By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST

Head Lice Infestation - Overview

As kids, nearly everyone has been infected with head lice at one time or the other. Head Lice are the tiny insects which feed on the blood of the human scalp. The infestation of these parasites is known as Pediculosis capitis and happens from the direct transfer of the lice from one person to the other. Being contaminated with head lice does not prove that you have a sense of poor personal hygiene.

Fortunately, head lice are not the carriers of any bacterial or viral diseases. Medications are available over the counter for the treatment of head lice. Also, a number of natural remedies too are available in order to make sure that you get rid of the infestations.

Causes of Head Lice Infestation

A head louse is a gray colored insect which feeds on the human blood extracted from the scalp. The female louse is known to excrete a sticky substance which causes the eggs to stick on the human hair shafts. The eggs measure around 4 millimeters in length and stick to the hair shafts and tend to hatch after a period of nine days. From the egg emerges a nymph which becomes a mature louse within the next 12 days. The average lifespan of a louse is three to four weeks.

Head lice are known to only crawl. Therefore, the most basic mode of transmission from one person to the other is via direct contact. The transmission is very common amongst families or amongst school children.

The most common modes of the spreading of lice are as follows:

  • Sharing hats and scarves.
  • Brushes and combs
  • Hair bands or clips
  • Headphone
  • Pillows
  • Towels or dress materials
  • Indirect transmission of the lice can also occur with the help of the shared clothing.

Signs and Symptoms of Head Lice

Most often people are not aware that they have been infected with head lice. However, some of the most common signs and symptoms are as follows:

Consistent Itching: In this, a person keeps on itching the areas around the scalp, neck and the ears. The itching may not occur until the first two to six weeks after the infestation.

Lice presence on the scalp: Lice are very difficult to spot due to their small size. They tend to avoid light and move very quickly. However, they can be easily spotted.

Lice Nits, or Eggs: The eggs or nits tend to be stuck on the hair shafts. Since they are very tiny and are greatly camouflaged, they may be very hard to spot at first. However, they can be easily spotted around the ears and the hairline.

It is recommended to see a doctor for the necessary treatment if you see dead or empty nits from the lice around the scalp. The presences of dandruff or scab tissues left behind by the lice are some of the other symptoms which show the presence of an active infestation.

Tests and Diagnosis of Head Lice Infestation

The best way to identify the head louse is to go in for the identification of an adult louse. The doctor generally combs the child’s hair with the help of a fine toothed comb from the scalp to the end of the hair. In case no louse is found, then the same is repeated for a second time.

Also the doctor may look the child for the presence of nits. Wood’s Light is used in order to look for nits, as they appear bluish in the presence of the light. Suspected nits can be looked under the microscope for determining the presence of an active infestation.

Treatment and Drugs for Lice Infestation

Over the counter drugs are available in order to treat the head lice infections. These medications kill the nits and the lice both. Usually, a second treatment is needed, followed by the primary treatment for the killing of the lice. Pyrethrin is a major chemical used in the medications as it is toxic to lice.

It is recommended to wash the hair with this chemical and then rinsing the hair with vinegar. Some of the commonly used medications are as follows:

Permethrin: This is a synthetic version of brethren and its side effects may include redness as well as itching over the scalp.
Benzyl Alcohol: This medication is not toxic to the lice, but kills them by cutting down their oxygen supply. However, this treatment is not used for children below the age of six months.
Malathion: People above the age of 6 are recommended to use this treatment option. This consists of a dry shampoo which is applied to the hair and is left there for about eight hours. Later, it is rinsed off with water.


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