How to Get Rid of Head Lice
Discovering a head lice infestation is top on the list of dreaded discoveries for most people. Once someone has head lice, they can be very difficult to get rid of. The main cause for their stubbornness is that they are very easily spread from person to person. If someone in the household is treated successfully, it’s likely they can get re-infested if someone else passes the bugs right back to them. After finishing this article, you might consider also reading our article on how to prevent head lice.
How Head Lice Spread
The most common way head lice are passed from person to person is through the sharing of personal items. Sharing towels, pillows, blankets, hats, hair accessories, combs, and brushes with an infected person will likely result in contracting the lice. People, especially children, should be cautious to not share these items.
Society as a whole is under the false impression that having lice indicates a person has poor personal hygiene. The truth is head lice do not discriminate. They can make their home in a perfectly clean head of hair just the same as in hair that is unwashed.
Head lice can survive on a human head for around thirty days. Their eggs survive for 2 weeks. Off of the human body, a louse will only survive for 24 hours. Even so, it’s essential to wash all bedding of the infected person in hot water and to thoroughly vacuum the carpeting.
What are the Signs of a Head Lice Infestation
There are some signs to look for that may indicate a head lice infestation. Itchy scalp is the most common symptom. The lice are likely to congregate behind the ears and along the nape of the neck, but are not limited to these areas. Their eggs, or nits, may appear to look like dandruff, but closer examination will reveal that the eggs do not flake off. They stick to the hair shaft and are an opaque white color.
When the louse hatches, it is clear and nearly microscopic. After a few feedings of human blood, they take on a reddish-brown hue and grow making them a tad easier to see. They are about the size of a sesame seed at full growth. A thorough head examination with a microscope is the best way to check for head lice.
Dry, crusty patches on the scalp or neck are another indication of head lice. These are caused by excessive scratching. Typically these patches are harmless, but in some instances a bacterial infection can develop. The infection is not caused by the lice directly, but rather through bacteria found underneath the fingernails or on the hands.
How to Treat Head Lice
When a head lice infestation is discovered, it’s critical to act fast. The first step is to go to the pharmacy to purchase a special shampoo that is designed to kill the lice. The directions on these products should be followed exactly as they dictate. The most common treatments are made with pesticides so it’s important not to use them on small children or babies.
The first step is to wash the hair with the treated shampoo. Wearing gloves is recommended. After washing, it’s time for the tedious chore of combing through the whole head of hair with a fine tooth comb. Usually the specialty shampoos come with the comb. If yours didn’t have one, a metal or wooden one is best.
Instruct the person to sit in front of you with their head bowed down, chin touching their chest. Start with the hair underneath at the nape of the neck. Section it off into small 1/2 inch sections and begin swiping the comb through starting at the scalp. After each swipe, wash off the comb in hot water and be sure no nits (head lice eggs) remain before running the comb through the next section of hair.
This is a very long process but being thorough is key. Pay extra attention to the lice hot spots behind the ears. Once the treatment is finished, be sure to wash any towels or hair accessories in very hot water. In three days and again in one week, check the person again to be sure no nits or parasites remain.
There is no need to buy a special spray to use on household items like furniture and bedding. As previously mentioned, lice only live for about 24 hours when they are not on a human host. They can not survive on animals or inanimate objects. Thorough washing and vacuuming is all it takes to get rid of lice, dead or alive. Flea bombs and other pesticides intended for other insects are not effective methods in the treatment of head lice.
Natural Remedies for Head Lice
There are natural remedies that can be effective as well. People have found success using mayonnaise or tea tree oil to remove head lice and their eggs. Opinions of these treatments vary, so when deciding to use an alternative method for lice treatment it’s wise to use your best judgment. Tea tree oil is not recommended for infants or pregnant women.
The most important tool a person can use to treat head lice is their own persistence. If the first treatment is not 100% effective, persistently try again in a few days. The combing of the hair must be done completely and thoroughly. Half-hearted attempts at treating head lice will not be enough to get the job done.