I think as a parent one of the most dreaded things is when you are combing through your child’s hair and you notice the tiny little bug or the pussy willow fluff little things attached to their hair near the roots. Or the moment you see your child scratching their head once, then twice. I know the fear that goes through your head. Lice!
What are lice?
Lice are six legged tiny insects about the size of a sesame seed. These horrible little insects attach themselves on the scalp or neck of a person and then feed on human blood. They are visible to the normal eye so you will be able to see them while brushing through hair. Nits, which are the lice eggs, are usually closer to the scalp but attached to the hair. They are hard to get out and usually won’t budge with just normal brushing. Lice can be either white, brown or dark grey in color. The easiest way to diagnose them is to comb through wet hair. Lice can attach to anyone, child or adult. They are more common in children who attend daycare or school just because they are more exposed to the possibility of an outbreak. With that adults who have children are more perceptible to get lice as well.
How do you get lice?
You get lice by having direct head to head contact with someone who has lice. Lice cannot fly or jump so they cannot leap from one head to another. They can however live up to one or two days off of a human body so sharing articles of clothing such as hats or hair brushes can cause the spread of lice too. Make sure to speak to your child that it may be best to not share hate, hair bows, hair clips and hair brushes with other people. Lice will not attach themselves to dogs, what they want is the human blood so if your household does end up with lice you don’t have to worry about your pet.
Signs of Lice
One of the first signs of lice is the itchy head. Sometimes though lice won’t affect a person at all and it can be a long time before they even know they have lice. The itchiness is caused by an allergic reaction to the lice. The allergic reaction can cause sores from scratching too much and open sores on the scalp. If you notice any of these make sure to contact your doctor immediately.
There are lots of ways to get rid of lice. There are many over the counter treatments. Shampoo treatments, creams and sprays. Whatever you decide to get or your doctor recommends make sure you read the directions and follow them exactly. You do not want to over medicate your scalp that can cause more damage than the lice. Lice shampoo has chemicals in it that if overused can be harmful.
If you are pregnant and end up with lice contact your doctor because you will not be able to use over the counter treatments. If you are pregnant and someone in your family ends up with lice and you have to help with their treatment, make sure you wear gloves so that none of the chemicals go through your skin into your system.
Getting Rid of Lice in Your Home
After you have treated who is infected and you have made sure everyone in the family has gotten checked as well you have to move onto your house to make sure you kill the rest of them. Even though they will die within a day or two off the body you will want to do some things to make sure recurrence doesn’t happen. Make sure to wash the bedding of whoever was infected in warm or hot water. Also wash clothing that had been worn in the past 48 hours. Any hats should be washed in warm water too. Loved stuffed animals that might be on your child’s bed you can either quarantine them in a trash bag or ziplock bag for a week or two to kill the lice, or you can toss them into the dryer. Run the dryer on a hot setting for at least thirty minutes to make sure all lice have been removed. You can quarantine pillows and other items too but anymore doctors are saying this isn’t necessary. Make sure you vacuum the carpets, and curtains to make sure all lice have been cleaned off of those surfaces. Another thing to make sure you do is to wash or soak all brushes and combs that have been used.
There are some home remedies that people have claimed work. Put mayonnaise all over the scalp, cover with a shower cap and let soak in overnight. In the morning rinse out in the shower and use a fine tooth comb to comb out all nits. If needed do this again in a week to ten days later. Another home remedy that has been said to be effective is to dose your head in vinegar, leave on 15 minutes to let the vinegar kill the lice then rinse off. You can try olive oil on the scalp, make sure you put a generous amount. Let it sit for six to eight hours, then use a fine tooth comb to comb through the hair. Repeat these steps as many times until no lice or nits are visible on the comb. These are all just home remedies so not scientifically proven to work but have many personal success stories that show that they do have an effect.
A myth about lice is that lice can only happen to people who are unclean. This is very untrue. It has nothing to do with cleanliness. Lice likes all types of scalps clean or dirty and it can only be spread from head to head contact. Lice can live up to six hours under water. So simply keeping your hair washed daily is not prevention enough.
There really is no way to prevent yourself completely from getting lice. Make sure to not share hats, or hair accessories with other people because you just never know who has lice. Lice is a big pain, but once you make sure you have treated your scalp and have cleaned your home they can be easy to get rid of. Make sure you are thorough though so you make sure the lice won’t come back.
There is Help Available
If over the counter products don’t get rid of the lice consult with your doctor. They will be able to give you prescription shampoos that are stronger. If the whole idea of picking bugs out of someone’s hair gives you the creeps there are salons that specialize in lice treatment and removal. These salons can be pricey but they will treat the scalp comb through and get rid of all bugs and nits and in a week you go back and if there are any lice found they will treat you again for free. These salons sometimes will do free checks on all other family members as well. Whatever way you choose to treat it make sure you keep up on it to make sure the infestation has truly gone away.
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