It’s that time of year again when kids come home with notes that their school has a head lice infestation. Fortunately, there are some ways to prevent head lice that should keep that note out of your kid's backpack.
Also called Pediculus humanus capitis, head lice are parasitic insects found on the heads of people. Head lice is very common. Preschool and elementary age children and their families are infested most often. Girls and women get head lice more often than boys and men. Personal hygiene or cleanliness at home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice. Anyone who comes in close contact with someone who already has lice is at the greatest risk. Lice can also be spread by coming in contact with clothing such as hats, scarves or coats, or other personal items like brushes or towels that belong to an infested person. Even lying on a bed, couch, pillow or carpet where an infested person has been can cause you to become infected. Stuffed animals are another hiding place for these creepy crawlies.
There are three forms of lice. The egg, also called a nit, are head lice eggs. They are very small and are often confused for dandruff or hair care products. Nits are laid by the adult female at the base of the hair shaft nearest the scalp. They are firmly attached to the hair shaft and are oval in shape. The nits are usually yellow to white and take about a week to hatch.
After the nit hatches into a baby, it is called a nymph. Nymphs mature into adults about seven days after hatching. In order to live, the nymph must feed on blood. The mature lice is called an adult louse. It has six legs and is tan to grayish white. Adult lice can live up to 30 days on a person’s head, as long as they are feeding on blood. If the louse falls off a person, it will die within two days without blood to feed on. Lice are most commonly found on the scalp, behind the ears and near the neckline at the back of the head. Head lice very rarely are found on the body, eyelashes or eyebrows.
For more information on recognizing the symptoms plus available treatment options, check out the following web sites for more info on how you can avoid this school year nuisance and for some ways to prevent head lice.
At this site, you can learn more about lice and how to get rid of them. There is a “Frequently Asked Questions” section as well as suggested books for more info on this itchy subject. If you need ways to prevent head lice, this is the place to go.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a great downloadable fact sheet for head lice information on their web site. You can find information on the symptoms of a head lice infestation, such as itching or a tickling feeling of something moving in your hair. You can also learn how to diagnose head lice, as sometimes it can be difficult as the lice move quickly through searching fingertips.
Contrary to popular belief, head lice cannot jump, hop or fly. Most lice are spread by close contact. Playing, whispering or head to head contact can spread lice to unaffected persons. Treatment options can vary from over the counter products to natural remedies like mayonnaise or oils. Lice can hold their breath for a long time, so it is important to thoroughly check out all treatment options before making any decisions.
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