What are lice?
- Head lice are tiny six-legged blood-sucking parasites. Each leg is equipped with a claw, enabling the lice to grasp onto the shaft of the child’s hair. They can vary in color from grayish white to reddish brown. Head lice, like chameleons, have the ability to adapt to their environment.
- The female louse lays her eggs by gluing them to your hair shafts. She will produce approximately 200 eggs in her lifetime. Eggs, or nits as they’re commonly called, generally hatch in 7 to 10 days. Once hatched, they have a life expectancy of approximately 30 days.
- Lice are wingless and cannot jump or fly. They can, however, move with amazing speeds.
- They depend on human blood for survival. A louse separated from its human host will rarely survive more than 24 hours.
Where do lice come from?
- Where do they come from? No one knows for sure. Evidence of lice existence has been documented as far back as ancient times.
How do you get lice?
- In most all cases lice are transmitted from one human host to another, brought about mainly as a result of head-to-head contact.
- There are many factors that draw head lice to one individual over another. Blood type and Rh factor are among them.
- While it’s more commonly spread among children, parents and other adults are not immune.
- When hair has contact with another’s hair (and it will), if that person has lice and you are a favorable environment, you take the risk of exposing yourself to an uninvited houseguest.
Does getting lice make my kids dirty?
- Head lice actually prefer a clean head of hair. Lice, however, are not prejudicial. A louse’s only concern is for its own survival. To accomplish this, the louse needs to feed and is always looking for the most convenient means of doing so.
- Will it help if I wash my child’s hair daily? This is nice in theory but wrong in actuality. Since nits are glued to the hair, all the brushing and washing on earth won’t change that fact. The eggs are coated with a fixative substance, which literally cements them to the hair shaft. They are blood-sucking parasites with crab-like claws. They can attach themselves to your hair and will hang on for dear life.
- What about putting lots of gel on the child’s hair? While we hear this question a lot, we strongly discourage it. It does nothing to prevent head lice. It’s far simpler to take a few extra minutes to brush the hair and pull it back, thus closing the bridge that invites a louse over.
How do I know if my son or daughter has lice?
- How do I know for sure that my child has head lice? The most obvious way is the usual itchy scalp so commonly, but not always, found in head lice cases. The only way to confirm your suspicions, however, is by a thorough examination of your child’s hair. Making head lice exams a part of your regular routine will allow you to identify the problem at its onset and thus prevent head lice from taking over your family, your home and your life.
What’s the best treatment for lice?
- If you do find head lice on your child’s head, take care of the problem right away. Each day wasted is an increased opportunity for reproduction, not to mention the additional chances of spreading to others.
- Keep in mind that head lice need blood to survive, so rather than stripping your sheets daily, running the vacuum three times a day and bagging every toy your child owns, your time is better spent checking and combing his or her head and communicating with those around you. Nit removal is a tedious enough job without overburdening yourself with unnecessary cleaning techniques. You need not drive yourself to a state of hysteria or have a nervous breakdown in an attempt to regain a normal lifestyle. One final note on all of this is to keep in mind how this affects your child. We don’t want children to feel that it’s their fault or to feel ashamed because they have head lice. It happens! We must stress that to the children as well. Deal with it, get over it, and go on with our lives!
- How you treat the problem is entirely up to you. There are a lot of products on the market but remember, many of these are pesticides. If you feel you must use them, do so sparingly, and be careful to follow all directions. Whether you choose a pesticidal shampoo product or go with one of the newer non-toxic products, it is important to understand that 100% removal cannot occur without hours of painstakingly picking all of the nits out.
How many cases of lice are there every year?
- It’s impossible to know exactly how many cases of head lice there are each year. Statistics derived from product sales, however, suggest that the U.S. alone sees over 12 million cases of head lice each year. It is estimated that parents spend 150 million dollars annually trying to be rid of this problem. The cost is far greater when you factor in the missed wages that often occur as a result of parents being forced to miss work while tending to their child’s head lice problem.
- How bad is the problem? Bad enough to wreak havoc around the world! Bad enough to pit parents against school administrators. Bad enough for children to accept the blame and shame for a problem in which they have little control over.
- Why has this become such a problem? Head lice are insects and like other insects, repeated exposure to chemicals over an extended period of time has allowed the lice to build up a resistance to the very products once used to kill them.
Are lice dangerous?
- Is there any danger? For the most part, head lice themselves are an irritating problem. While in some cases their saliva can produce an allergic reaction among certain individuals, these reactions are usually mild compared to the risk involved with many shampoo products.
- Some lice treatments can be more dangerous than the lice. Products containing Lindane have caused the greatest concerns. Exposure to the neurotoxic product has been linked to seizures, developmental disabilities, hormone disruption and worse yet–cancer. Thanks to the EPA, one can no longer use Lindane as a source of treatment when dealing with our animals or our environment; as it is considered too dangerous an option. The only use, and I repeat, the ONLY use, still allowed, is as an ingredient in shampoos and lotions for the treatment of head lice and scabies. Thankfully, many states, including California, New York, and Michigan have taken this decision out of the FDA’s hands and banned the pharmaceutical use within their states.