Head lice are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that live and feed on blood from the scalp.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
Some cases of Head lice are very persistent. Reasons why treatment may not be effective include;
Ask your Pharmacist for advice: