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What Are Head Lice
Head lice are wingless insects that are 1-3mm in length when fully grown, which is the size of a sesame seed. Female head lice lay eggs that are smaller than a pinhead and these attach to your hair, close to the scalp. The eggs hatch about 7 to 10 days later. Young lice (nymphs) take about 10 days to become adults capable of laying new eggs.
When head lice hatch, they leave empty shells called nits attached to the hair. Nits are white and can be mistaken for flakes of dry skin. Unlike dandruff, nits stick to the hair and you won’t be able to remove them with normal shampooing.
Symptoms of Head Lice
For many people, head lice cause no symptoms. Head Lice can give you an itchy scalp, which may be worse behind your ears or on the back of your neck. If you scratch a lot, the skin can become broken and infections may develop.
Another sign that you may have head lice include nits stuck to the hairs as they grow out. If you spot nits then you need to investigate further.
Head lice aren’t always to blame for your symptoms. For example; an itching scalp can be due to other causes such as eczema and dandruff. Eczema may be triggered by repeated treatments with insecticides.
Some people feel they have an infestation with lice because they know of others who have been affected. For this reason, it’s essential to have a confirmed diagnosis before starting treatment.
Who Can Get Head Lice
- Anyone can get head lice, but they are most common in children aged between 4 and 11. This may be because of their close contact with each other at school. Girls seem to be more likely to get them than boys.
- You can only get head lice through head to head contact. They cannot hop, fly or swim.
- Head lice can only live for a short time away from the scalp and those found away from the head are usually dying.
- Head lice can be found in all types and lengths of hair – having head lice is not a sign that your hair is dirty. Head lice are just as often found living in clean hair.
There are different head lice treatment methods which include the following:
A fine-toothed nit comb is used to remove lice and their eggs. This can be painful for the child or adult and very time consuming.
Pesticide based treatments have been around for many years but there is now evidence that head lice already have, and continue to, develop resistance to some of them. There are two main types which work by poisoning the lice but evidence suggests that levels of resistance to these treatments are rising.
Non Pesticide Treatments
Non-pesticide lotions work in a different way from conventional pesticide treatments. They kill the lice by coating and either stripping away their waxy coating, causing them to dehydrate or blocking the opening to their air tubes, disrupting their ability to manage water. These physical mode of actions mean there is theoretically no chance for the lice to build up a resistance. There are three main active ingredients currently in use, dimeticone, isopropyl and activdiol.
These treatments use natural and herbal or essential oils like tea tree oil in their formulations. More recently, head lice treatments have been developed to combat resistant lice, which have a mode of action to kill lice either through dehydration or suffocation. This is how Hedrin helps kill lice and their eggs.
Myths & Facts
Head lice can only be passed by direct head to head contact – they cannot ‘jump’ or ‘fly’!
For more Myths & Facts about Head Lice, visit our Myths vs Facts page.
Head Lice Life Cycle
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Image source: www.health.vic.gov.au/headlice.
Guide to Combing
Combing is not required to ensure the effectiveness of Hedrin, however if you did wish to use a nit comb to remove the dead head lice and nits after treatment, it is ok to do so. Below are some helpful tips if you wish to use nit comb to remove dead head lice and nits.
It is best to check for head lice using a comb made for the purpose. Ideally, it should be white, so that lice can be easily seen, and with teeth no more than 0.3mm apart in order to trap head lice. Research has found detection combing was nearly four times more effective than visual inspection for finding live lice.
How To Check
- A diagnosis of head lice infection cannot be made with certainty unless a living, moving louse is found – no matter how many nits are present, how many reported cases there are in school or how bad the itch is.
- If somebody has nits, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have head lice – when you have removed all of the lice, the nits will remain stuck to the hair until they grow out or are combed out.
- Parents should check their children’s hair regularly, ideally once a week. A good way for parents to remember this is ONCE A WEEK, TAKE A PEEK.
- Remember, the presence of head lice will not always cause people to itch straight away. It can take over a month before this symptom develops.
- It is best to check for head lice using a comb made for the purpose, ideally white so they can be easily seen and with teeth no more than 0.3mm apart in order to trap head lice – research has found detection combing was nearly four times more effective than visual inspection for finding live lice.
- Combing through the hair using a conditioner may make the process more comfortable.
- Good lighting is important and so is comfort.
- Checking for head lice shouldn’t be considered a big deal, it is just a normal part of a family’s personal hygiene routine like brushing teeth or washing hair.