Head Lice – The nitty gritty of it!
What is head lice?
Head lice are grey or brown insects that live close to the scalp on human heads. They are 1mm to 3mm long. They are a fairly repulsive looking insect that has no wings and lives on the human head. They tend to prefer the warmest parts of the head, like behind the ears and they do not really care if your hair is straight, curly thick etc... They feed on human blood about four times a day!
They bite through the scalp injecting saliva and it’s this process that causes itchiness, however not everyone reports having an itchy scalp. The real creepy thing though is females can lay 10 eggs a day so they reproduce really quickly! These eggs are referred to as nits and stick to the root of the hair. We should get a little comfort in knowing that head lice do NOT carry diseases, but the breaking of skin anywhere can cause infection.
Who gets head lice?
"It is estimated that one in 10 children suffer from head lice at any one time [HSE study 2008], with 80% of head lice infestations occurring in children between the ages of four and 16," according to the Irish Pharmacy Union President, Kathy Maher.
Although head lice can occur all year round the most popular time is at the end of summer also known in Ireland as the back to school period around September and again after Christmas.
Head Lice - The Facts
If you want to get rid of nits and head lice you need to understand their life cycle which works like this:
- Nits, the eggs, take seven to 11 days to mature and hatch.
- The baby louse take nine to 12 days to grow into an adult. A fully grown adult louse is the size of a sesame seed.
- Once an adult, it needs to find a mate.
- 24 hours after pairing the female lays her first eggs – and then keeps laying them day after day, after day, after day.
- Head lice die if they don't have contact to fresh blood supply from the scalp within two days.
Steps to check for head lice
The best way to find head lice is to check hair every week. Comb through their hair with a 'detection comb' - you can buy this from a pharmacy.
- Wash the hair with ordinary shampoo.
- Apply lots of conditioner and comb it through with an ordinary comb. This makes lice wet, which keeps them still.
- Put the teeth of the detection comb into the hair at the roots and comb down to the ends.
- Work through the hair, section by section, checking the comb each time.
- Rinse off the conditioner.
- Repeat combing while the hair is still wet.
Is there a way I can prevent head lice?
Sure, we can prevent head lice through being a little bit more careful about where our ‘heads are at’ quite literally. Catching head lice off another person, mostly children is due to them rubbing heads, which can happen when playing closely or even from taking selfies. Avoid using other peoples hats and combs, but.. if you have hair you may get head lice!
We can also prevent head lice by using a repellent that is safe for humans but, not so good for head lice. Check out the Nitty Gritty repellent HERE
Treatment for head lice
If you find lice, check everyone in the family and let people who have been in close contact know, so they can check as well. You only need to treat people who have lice.
Drinagh Pharmacy recommend a simple and user friendly V Comb. The V Comb brand sold by Drinagh Pharmacy is a resusable and allergy free lice treatement for both adults and children. The gentle and effective treatment is safe for home use and eliminates both head lice and their nits without the need for harmful chemicals or special shampoos. Great for everyone in the home – even your pets!
To purchase V Comb for next day delivery in Ireland click HERE.
Check the hair again 2 days after the treatment, to make sure it has worked.
Check the whole family again and treat all those with lice. If you still find lice, ask a GP or pharmacist for advice.
Your child might still scratch after the treatment. This doesn't mean they have lice, but check your child's head to be sure. Do not treat again unless you find live lice.
Irish Pharmacy Union www.ipu.ie