Pharmacist Advice

Site Navigation

Head Lice

Definition

Head lice are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that live and feed on blood from the scalp.

Description

Head lice are tiny greyish brown insects, about the size of a sesame seed. Head lice cling to hairs, close to the scalp which they feed off. Head lice lay eggs which hatch after 7 to 10 days. It takes about 10 days for a newly hatched louse to grow to an adult and start to lay eggs.

Nits are the empty white egg shells which are left when the Head lice hatch. Nits look like dandruff, but stick strongly to hair. Unlike dandruff, nits cannot be easily brushed out.

Head Lice are spread from close hair-to-hair contact. Head Lice do not jump or fly (they crawl) and generally cannot survive longer than 24 hours off the host. Head lice soon die when away from hair, and do not live in clothes and bedding, etc.

Signs and Symptoms

Lice feed on human blood and spill their saliva onto the hair and into the scalp. The patient then develops an allergic reaction to the saliva, which causes itching and discomfort. In cases where the head lice have been detected early, the above process may not have yet occurred and itching may not be present.

Treatment Options

A Doctor's consultation is usually not necessary unless the scalp becomes infected. Your Pharmacist is able to help you with Head Lice treatment as most products are available over-the-counter.

Insecticide lotion

Treatment with insecticide lotions has been used for many years. Research studies show that lice can be cleared in about 8 in 10 cases by using an insecticide lotion. You can buy an insecticide lotion from pharmacies. There are various brands. The active ingredient is usually malathion or phenothrin. Shampoo, mousse and creme rinse preparations of these insecticides are not recommended as they are not in contact with the lice for a long enough time to kill them. Re-apply the same lotion after seven days. Although lice are usually killed by one application, not all eggs may be.

Some head lice lotions are very flammable. It is advisable to use a water-based lotion instead of alchol-based lotion, which may be flammable. When you or your child have lotion on your hair, keep well away from fires, candles, gas cookers, pilot lights, matches and cigarette lighters

Dimeticone

Dimeticone is a new type of treatment for Head Lice. It does not contain chemicals that kill lice and is thought to work by covering the lice and suffocating them. As it has no insecticide activity, it is useful in areas where lice have become resistant to insecticides. However, it has little effect on lice eggs. Like insecticides, you need to reapply dimeticone 7 days after the initial treatment.

Detection and Treatment

Using the Conditioner and Wet Combing Technique is the best method of detecting Head Lice and can also be helpful in treating mild cases. For the Conditioner and Combing Technique you will need:

  • Ordinary hair conditioner
  • An ordinary and fine toothed comb
  • Hair clips
  • Good light
  • Magnifying glass
  • A waterproof cape

Conditioner and Wet Combing Technique

  • Untangle dry hair with an ordinary comb.
  • Apply conditioner to dry hair. Use enough conditioner to cover the entire scalp and all hair from roots to tips.
  • Use the ordinary comb to evenly distribute the conditioner. Using the hair clips, divided the hair into four or more sections. If you are combing your own hair a mirror will help.
  • Change to a Head Lice comb.
  • Start with a section of hair at the back of the head. Place the teeth of the Head Lice comb flat against the scalp. Comb the hair from the roots through to the tips.
  • Wipe the comb on the tissue after each stroke. In good light, check for Head Lice and eggs. Adult lice are easier to see - young lice can be difficult to detect. Using a magnifying glass will help you detect smaller lice.
  • Comb each section twice until you have combed the whole head. If the comb becomes clogged, use the old toothbrush or dental floss to remove the Head Lice or eggs.
  • Keep combing until all the conditioner is removed from the hair.
  • Repeat the Conditioner and Combing Technique every 2 days until you find no lice for 10 consecutive days. By doing this you will be removing all the adult lice and any young lice that hatch from undetected eggs.

Cleaning Up

  • Place all the tissues you have used in a plastic bag, tie the top and put it in the bin.
  • Wash your hands normally.
  • Soak combs in hot soapy water (just after boiling) for at least 30 seconds to ensure that head lice are killed. This should be done by an adult because the water is very hot. When the water has cooled, use an old toothbrush to remove debris

When It Doesn't Work

Some cases of Head lice are very persistent. Reasons why treatment may not be effective include;

  • Inadequate application of the product
  • Lice are resistant to insecticide
  • Failure to retreat to kill eggs
  • Reinfection

Pharmacist's Advice

Ask your Pharmacist for advice:

  1. Follow the Diet Hints
  2. See the Conditioner and Wet Combing Technique under the Health Management section in this topic.
  3. Use a Head Lice treatment to kill Head Lice. Ask your Pharmacist for a suitable brand and how to use it. Repeat the treatment after 7 days.
  4. Lice are often resistance to some over-the-counter treatments. If the first attempt at treatment is unsuccessful, ask your Pharmacist for another brand with different active ingredients and repeat the process.
  5. Head Lice treatment kills the adult lice but will not remove nits (empty egg cases). Use a special fine-toothed comb, from your Pharmacy, to remove nits after treatment.
  6. Ask your Pharmacist about chemical-free headlice treatments.
  7. There are also a number of herbal treatments available, such as Tea tree oil, that may help to manage Head lice. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
Free Diabetes Check
Restore Rewards Member? Login and check your balance here this month catalogue
This month: Fit & STRONG