The beginning of the school year brings the excitement of new classes, seeing old friends again, new school clothes and lice? Unfortunately, this is all too common of a situation. There are three main types of lice: head, body, and pubic lice. The lice names signify their location of habitation. People contract head lice through close head-to-head contact or exchanging or using hair grooming items. School age children are the most popular hosts for head lice because they have more close head-to-head contact than adults. Girls commonly have more incidences of head lice than boys perhaps due to their long hair, hairbrushes and combs, barrettes, and their eagerness to trade these items with friends.
Body lice can be contracted by wearing clothing contaminated with the lice (usually found in the clothing seams), not bathing daily, or through direct contact with an infested person. Pubic lice are mostly spread through sexual contact but can be gotten from dirty towels or sheets also. Pubic lice is not only found in the pubic area but also in other hairy areas like armpits, eyebrows, eyelashes, beards, and the scalp. Animals cannot spread lice to humans and vice versa. Human lice are only spread to other humans. That is why it is important for children who have lice to stay home until the lice are gone to prevent spreading it to other children. Lice eggs are brown and found close to the scalp. Those eggs that have already hatched can be found further from the scalp and are white or clear in color. Nits are the hatched lice eggs and are usually found attached or "glued" to the hair shaft around the nape of the neck, behind the ears, and around the back of the scalp. Lice are small, sesame-seed sized insects. They have claws that grasp the hair and skin to feed on the blood. A hatched nit needs to feed on blood within 45 minutes to survive. It takes 10 days for nits to hatch and another 10 days for them to fully mature enabling them to be able to procreate. The average female louse can lay 50 to 150 eggs in a lifetime.
How can you tell you have lice? You may have first noticed that you feel itchy and, after looking, see the lice or eggs. It actually can take two to six weeks for your body to react to the lice saliva or feces. When your body has an immune reaction, it will begin to itch. Therefore, it may not be the lice moving causing you to scratch yourself but your body's reaction to the bite. People that have had lice before may react sooner to the lice bite and feces. If you have lice, there are several options you can take to get rid of the infestation some people swear by home remedies including putting olive oil on the hair (to smother the lice), putting mayonnaise on the hair and covering it with plastic wrap for 2 hours, rinsing the hair with Listerine mouth wash, adding tea tree oil to shampoo, or rinsing the hair with vinegar. You are welcome to try any of these remedies to see if they will work for you. The only thing that I found to work well was a lice comb. The comb is very inexpensive and will allow you to pick the lice out of the hair and kill them. You will need to use the comb daily for 2 weeks because the lice will hatch. If you can comb through and catch the lice that have hatched daily then you have overcome head lice. This is the only method that I have found that works because you cannot find every single egg and the lice seem to have become resilient to chemical treatment and who wants to put dangerous chemical on their children's' heads.
Your house cannot get lice. The only way that you can get lice from your house is if there is a hair with an egg attached that hatches. Mature lice need a human host with blood in order to live. Mature lice will die if they are away from the human body for more than 48 hours; however, lice can live for 30 days if they are on the body and feed. It is important to keep checking for lice every few days for 3 to 4 weeks after everyone has been checked and treated to prevent the possibility of re-infestation. Once you have checked and treated your entire family, it is extremely important that you vacuum, mop, dust your home really well to get up any hairs that may have eggs attached to prevent further infestation or re-infestation. All used towels, lice treatment, bed linens, pillow cases and clothing that have been in contact with the infested person need to be washed in hot water and dried on the hottest dryer setting for at least 20 minutes. I recommend that you sticky roll all of your furniture and vacuum all carpets, rugs, and furniture really well. Lice are pesky but not life threatening. If lice have infested you or a member of your family, keeping on top of cleaning and treating the affected body areas daily will ensure that the lice will die off and not come back.