Anyone who comes into contact with kids, such as teachers, parents, and day care workers, faces the possibility of contracting head lice. People typically will go for days without knowing that they have a case of lice. They might attribute itching to dandruff, sunburned scalp, shampoos and other factors, not thinking of the unpleasant possibility that they may have head lice living on their scalp. People who have an infestation of these human parasites on their scalp may notice a “crawling sensation”, itching scalp, red bumps and a stale odor on their hair brush.
Here are some ways to tell if you have head lice living in your hair.
Below are some photos of what head lice look like. Note that lice eggs or “nits” are a different color from the adult bugs. Adult insects are brownish to golden, while the eggs are clear to white. One of the best ways to find out if you have lice is to run a fine comb through your hair and see if any bugs or eggs are caught on the blades.
Above: Photo of head lice and nits.
A good way to tell if you have head lice is to use a mirror or have a friend take a look at your scalp and search for live adults and nits. Nits or lice eggs will be clinging to the hair shaft as seen in the illustration above. Unlike dandruff, they don’t come off the hair shaft easily. In very obvious cases you can tell if you have head lice by simply looking in the mirror and seeing all the white nits clinging to your hair. If you are in doubt about what you are seeing on the hair shaft, use a magnifying glass (or binoculars turned backward) to magnify the image. If the object looks like the photo of a head lice egg above, then you can confirm your suspicions.
Treating Head Lice In Children and Adults
There are tons of home remedies for lice, but few, short of shaving all of your hair off, few have been shown to be effective. Among the oldest and most widely used natural head lice treatments is to apply something oily, such as olive oil to the scalp overnight to smother the bugs.
Another common home lice remedy is applying real mayo to the scalp overnight. These methods seem to work well when combined with a rigid regime of nit removal and done in at least two applications.
Is Rid Lice Treatment Dangerous To Children?
One of the most common over the counter treatments is a product called Rid. It’s been around for decades and has been proven effective at killing the adult head lice. It contains Piperonyl butoxide (4%) and Pyrethrum extract (equivalent to 0.33% pyrethrins). There is some evidence that pyretherins are harmful to the thyroid and are a carcinogen. Source. The posion piperonyl butoxide, one of Rid lice control treatment’s ingredients, has been shown to have numerous effects on humans including liver problems.
You may want to try one of the natural lice remedies mentioned above before using such harsh pesticides as those in Rid on your scalp.
Eggs are nearly impossible to kill with natural and chemical treatments such as this, so getting rid of a case of head lice means that you must remove each nit that is attached to each hair shaft on your scalp using a louse comb. These small combs are often included in the box with over the counter lice killing products. The process of removing lice eggs can be painful, especially for those with thick hair and sensitive scalps, and can take hours to do. Nits may be so small that they slip right through the blades of lice combs. In that case someone will have to use their fingers to pull each egg off of each affected hair shaft. There are even professional lice removal services in some major cities, since the cases of head lice are so hard to cure. It’s very important that you follow all of the instructions that come with lice killing products. You’ll need to wash your bedding and all affected clothing in hot, soapy water and treat every member of the family who has come into contact with the infected person.
How To Avoid Head Lice When You Travel
You can catch these dreadful bugs from things such as airline and bus seat backs and benches. When traveling use some kind of barrier between your head and any objects that may have been used by other people. Never try on hats in tourist shops either, since the chances are that dozens of other people have placed the same one on their head that day.
Note: The author of this post “Sunshine” is married to an elementary school teacher and has “first hand” experience with this terrible condition.