Head lice are notorious amongst children in grade school. Parents do not need to fret as these pesky little parasites can be cured and cleared away with the right kind of treatment.
What are head lice and the nits they leave behind?
Head lice are tiny parasites (about the size of a sesame seed) that are found on top of people’s head. They are very hard to get rid of as they are practically glued onto someone’s hair. The lice stays very close to the scalp of the skin, its nutrient source, and lays eggs which usually hatches after seven to ten days. It can take a week for a lice to grow into a full grown adult and start laying eggs on its own.
Nits are the shells that are left behind when the lice hatches. The look like dandruff flakes but are much harder to brush off as they can strongly stick to the hair.
Head lice are usually found in children but no one is exempted from getting it. Just because you get head lice does not mean you are dirty or have poor hygiene. Anyone can get them. Head lice usually spread from one person to another from close hair-to-hair contact. They don’t have wings to fly but crawls from one person’s head to another. Head lice can only live in the hair and dies off in other places such as clothes, bed sheets, etc. Head lice infections can also be carried by family members who don’t even know that they have it.
Problems with head lice
Many people with head lice are not even aware that they have it. They would produce no symptoms whatsoever, just an itch here and there due to an allergic reaction to the lice and not their biting. The itch can start four months after a person has been infested with the parasite making it more likely to pass on the lice to another person. Head lice and nits are very hard to wash off with just regular shampoo. They do not cause any other medical problems and the amount of lice found on a person’s head can vary greatly depending how often they multiplied. However, normally, there are less than 14 lice present.
Do you have head lice?
It is very difficult to find a head lice just by parting and looking into the hair. If you think that you or your child have head lice, it is best to confirm that with a comb. Some people suggest that you do this at least once a week, especially a child as there is more risk.
This can take up to 20 minutes to check each head, depending on the thickness and length of the hair. It is also one of the ways to treat head lice.
- Lather up your hair with soap and water and wash it thoroughly as you normally would.
- Rinse off the shampoo and lather up again, this time with conditioner.
- Detangle the hair out with a comb.
- When the knots in the hair have all been taken out, grab a finely-toothed comb (called a detection comb). You can find them at your local pharmacies.
- Place the teeth of the comb onto the scalp and stroke out the hair (checking to see if there are lice after each stroke) from the roots to the end of the hair. You may need to use a magnifying glass to see more clearly.
- If you detect any lice, rinse the comb out under hot running water before the next stroke.
- After the entire head has been checked, rinse out the conditioner.
- You can start the process over again on the wet hair to make sure that all of the lice have been taken out.
- This entire process can also be done on wet hair.
How can head lice be treated?
You don’t need to be infested first before starting treatment. It is recommended to begin treatment immediately if there is one or more live lice. The nits on your head do not automatically mean that you have head lice because they can stay behind for prolong periods of time even after the head lice is gone.
Right now, there are four main treatments options that are effective in clearing up head lice:
- Dimeticone 4% lotion- This product is safe to use and is found in many cosmetic products and toiletries. The lotion should only be applied two times, a week apart. The second time you apply it will kill off any lice that has survived the first application before they start laying eggs. Dimeticone is safe to use on children (older than 6 months), those with asthma or any other skin conditions. It can also be purchased over-the-counter.
- Wet combing treatment- This treatment is effective in removing head lice without having to use dimeticone. Concisely, this method is similar to the one mentioned above. It has to be done a number of times, four days apart. Wet combing will need to be done on everyone in your family member who has head lice.
The treatment can take anywhere between 40-60 minutes depending on the texture and length of the hair. The correct toothed comb is needed to remove the lice from the head.
- You will first start out by washing your hair the same way that you normally would with regular shampoo.
- Rinse the hair out completely and lather up with conditioner.
- Detangle your hair with a normal comb.
- Start the wet combing treatment as mentioned earlier after untangling the hair.
- Move the teeth of the detection comb to the roots of the hair so that the scalp is touched.
- Slide the comb through the hair, all the way to the tips.
- Check to see if there are any lice on the comb when doing that. If there are, rinse out with hot water.
- After the entire head is done, rinse off the conditioner.
This routine needs to be done at least three times, every three days. That can vary depending on the last time you saw the lice:
- The first wet combing treatment should scrape off the head lice but most often times the eggs are left behind. For that reason, lice that hatch from eggs may be left behind.
- Subsequent treatments will clear the lice that were just hatched. Applying the wet combing treatment every three days will ensure that no lice are left behind on the head.
- Isopropyl myristate and cyclomethicone solution- This is categorized as a physical insecticide. It kind of works the same way as dimeticone. The treatment is applied to the scalp and left on for 10 minutes. The hair is then combed thoroughly with a fine-toothed comb to remove the lice. Wash the hair out with regular shampoo afterwards to remove the solution.
The treatment is acceptable for people with asthma. It not recommended to be used on children under the age of two and those with skin conditions. It is available on prescription and you can also purchase it over-the-counter.
- Coconut, anise and ylang ylang (CAY) spray- This spray is also a physical insecticide and works in the same way as dimeticone. You spray it on your head and leave it on for about 15 minutes. The hair is then combed thoroughly with a fine toothed comb to remove any lice. Wash the hair out afterwards to remove the solution of the spray. Treatment should be repeated in a week. The second treatment will ensure that any lice which made it through the first treatment will be killed before they grow into mature adults and lay eggs.
This treatment is not recommended to be used on children under the age of 2, people with skin conditions, or those who suffer from asthma. You can buy it over-the-counter even though it’s available via prescription form.
Natural Treatments for head lice
Baby oil- Baby oil has been an effective method of treatment for removing head lice. The oil is used to suffocate the lice. For that you will need baby oil, some laundry detergent, and apple cider vinegar.
- Rub the baby oil onto your scalp and comb it out slowly to remove the lice.
- Wash out the baby oil from your hair with the laundry detergent and warm water.
- Before you go to sleep at night, apply apple cider vinegar onto your scalp and cover your head up with a shower cap.
- When you wake up the next day, wash out your hair with regular shampoo and apply conditioner.
- This process will need to be repeated for 3-4 days for best result.
Salt- This is also an effective remedy that will help to kill off head lice.
- Mix about ¼ cup of salt and the same amount of vinegar thoroughly.
- Spray the salty solution onto your scalp and cover up the head with a shower cap.
- Leave the cap on for three hours and wash off with regular shampoo.
- Apply a generous amount of conditioner and rinse off.
- This can be repeated every three days for maximum results.
Petroleum Jelly- This can have a stinging effect on the lice.
- Apply a generous amount on your scalp before going to bed at night. Cover hair with a shower cap.
- In the morning, remove the petroleum jelly with baby oil and a fine toothed-comb.
- Wash out with regular shampoo.
- This needs to be repeated several consecutive nights for best results.
Prevention of head lice
There isn’t really an effective way to prevent head lice. Even if you buy the repellent sprays, they are not very effective. Applying the wet-combing method every week or so will help you catch them early on before they multiply. You can begin this treatment immediately to decrease the risk of contaminating others.