Lice

What are lice?

Lice are small wingless insects. They live in the hair of human beings and feed on the blood of the scalp.

Lice are a very common problem, especially in young children. But teens can have them, too. They spread between people with great ease and sometimes it costs a lot to get rid of them. Its bites can cause itching and irritation to the scalp, and scratching can lead to infections.

Lice are bothersome, but they are not dangerous and do not spread disease. They are not an indicator of poor hygiene: Lice need blood to live, regardless of whether a person’s scalp is clean or dirty.

It is best to treat lice as soon as possible so that they do not spread.

Symptoms

  • Intense itching.
  • Tickling feeling from movement of hair.
  • Lice on your scalp, body, clothing, or pubic or other body hair. Adult lice may be about the size of a sesame seed or slightly larger.
  • Lice eggs (nits) on hair shafts. Nits resemble tiny pussy willow buds. Nits can be mistaken for dandruff, but unlike dandruff, they can’t be easily brushed out of hair.
  • Small red bumps on the scalp, neck and shoulders.

How are lice treated?

The two main ways to treat lice are:

  • use medications
  • extract them manually

Medication. If you think you have lice, call your doctor. Your doctor may recommend a medically formulated shampoo, cream, or lotion to kill lice. These products can be sold with or without a prescription. It all depends on what your doctor thinks will work best for you.

It can be difficult to get rid of lice. If you continue to have lice two weeks after starting treatment to eliminate them, inform your doctor. The doctor may prefer to change the medication or repeat the treatment, if there are any nits left that have hatched after treatment.

Lice are insects; therefore, its treatment is based on the use of insecticides or pesticides. To avoid an overdose, you must carefully follow the instructions on the amount of medicine you should use and how often you should apply it. Medication treatment usually kills lice, but the itch may persist for a few more days.

Manual removal of lice. Your doctor may recommend combing your wet hair with a comb, in addition to (or as an alternative to) chemical treatment. Drug treatment is not 100% effective, so manual removal is also important.

To remove lice and nits manually, wet your hair and comb it with a fine-toothed comb (or nit) after you have applied conditioner or softening cream to your hair every 3–4 days for 3 weeks after seeing the last lice alive. Go checking small sections of hair each time. Wetting the hair earlier helps temporarily immobilize the lice, and applying conditioner to the hair makes it easier for the nit to slide. When possible, it is best to have someone else do the styling and removal of nits and lice.

How can I prevent lice?

Lice are often difficult to get rid of, because nits may remain in your hair or you can re-infect yourself with lice that were left on your bedding or other objects. Here is what you have to do if you have just had lice, or if someone in your family has them:

  • Wash bedding and any other clothing recently worn by people with lice. 
  •  Take items that cannot be washed to the dry cleaner. Or put them in a zip-lock bag for 2 weeks.
  • Vacuum carpets, rugs, upholstered furniture, and car safety seats, and then throw the vacuum bag in the trash.
  • Soak hair items such as combs, buckles, hair bands, headbands, and brushes in hot water, or throw them away.
  • Since lice can be easily moved from person to person in the same house, all family members may also have lice, so they should be inspected. All people with lice or nits should be treated.
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Here are some ways to avoid getting lice in the first place:

  • Try to avoid direct contact between heads, like in the gym or when you play sports.
  • Do not share combs, brushes, hats, caps, scarves, scarves, buckles, headbands, headbands, towels, helmets, or other items for personal use with others.
  • Do not lie on bedding, pillows, carpets, or rugs that have been used by someone who had head lice recently.
  • If someone in your family or school has lice, have a parent or other adult inspect your hair and scalp every 3 to 4 days to make sure you don’t have lice.
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