Tag Archive | "head lice"

The Truth About Head Lice

Head lice or head louse, whatever people tend to call them in different parts of the world, they are still, itchy, annoying scoundrels that feed off from your scalp! Ever since the time man has stalked the Earth, these little buggers had been dinning and defecating on our heads for too long a time! Is it not enough that these parasites had their fill on our heads, that they also have to “relieve” themselves, causing a somewhat pungent and rancid odor that causes apparent itchiness. Since these parasites feed off from our scalp, they do not cause any symptomatic form of illness except the apparent itchiness that causes discomfort when they move about on top of your scalp and the embarrassing thought if someone found out that you had them! Head lice are the direct evolutionary cousins of the common animal flea, which had evolved to it’s present state when man started to walk the Earth.

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The head lice evolved to adapt to survive on certain plant juices when the host that they were feeding upon died, requiring them to seek out other sources of sustenance. Upon years of evolution and the emergence of man, head lice soon found a new host to feed on. There is another variant of the head lice that resides on the lower extremities of the body and it has evolved to enable it to survive in areas with thicker hair growth, more particularly the pubic area. Pubic lice are as annoying as head lice themselves, in which they also cause itchiness that causes great discomfort. Fondly called “the crabs”, pubic lice have evolved to cling on to the more flatter fair strands of the pubic area, they are called “crabs” because of their distinct resemblance to the crustaceans with the same name. Though they come from the same specie, pubic lice can not propagate on the head because they can not grasp the finner, thinner hairs of the scalp, so much it is the other way around with head lice.

Mother treating daughter's hair against lice

How Does One Get Head Lice?

Head lice get around quite often by direct physical contact, usually a predominant case in children while playing or having direct contact in school. Usually, a dormant parasitic hitch hiker that it is, the head lice can wait itself out on couches, bed sheets or just anywhere an infected person might have scratched or combed their hair, displacing the head lice until such time that it gets picked up by a new host. Head lice are not limited to little children only, but are in fact a problem for some adults as well. Just think of a scenario where children infected with head lice visit their relatives, where every body shakes hands, giving each other warm and tender embrasures…and head lice.

Infestation usually begins with one head lice finding it’s way on top of you head. From there, it will begin to lay it’s eggs on the hair stems, securing it with it’s own adhesive, one that has a very strong bonding ability, that even the most thorough use of shampoo or soap will never dislodge it. You may even manage to remove some of the parasites, but they can cling to the hair stems that it may even necessitate you to use ultra fine toothed combs that can remove most of the parasites but not their eggs. Severe head lice infestation can reach to a point that you can actually catch one crawling across your scalp with your bare fingers! And the ironic part is that when you manage to catch one and squeeze it, you will be able to see some small amounts of undigested blood the the head lice has digested from you!

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Combing over a sheet of white paper will reveal the head lice as you plow away your hair, dislodging them and eventually making them fall on the paper sheet. Although you should be very mindful of how you should comb your hair in regards to removing these pesky parasites. The average size of a head lice ranges from 1/32 to 1/16 of an inch and can sometimes even grow to 1/8 of an inch. The usual lifespan of head lice average to 20 days, but when you consider that you have at least 5 to 10 of them running around your head, going about their business and sucking out the juices from your scalp, that would probably be 20 annoying days of your life.

Imagine if you could, that a female head lice can actually lay an average of 5 to 6 eggs…in a day! They are called “nits”, simply because of the sound that they make when you squeeze them on your finger nails. Theses nits take 6 days to hatch, which can exponentially increase the infestation of head lice on your head.

In the case of children, there is an average of 10 head lice that can grow to an even greater number as the week progresses, in which case, little girls are much more prone to such infestation because of their obvious long hair. In the olden days, the only remedy for such head lice infestation was the total removal of hair! It was okay for young boys to sport such hairstyle, but for girls? Head lice survive because oh the heat of the body, particularly the heat from the scalp area that is warm because of the flow of the blood on the head. Also, there is the humidity condition that is perfect for head lice propagation as these parasites need a humid and warm environment to live on. Head lice do not spread diseases, unlike the common dog tick that excretes a neurotoxic compound in it’s saliva to maintain continued blood flow, not letting blood to coagulate. Dog tick infestation has been proven fatal to both humans and animals.

How Do We Control or Eradicate Head Lice Infestations?

As discussed before, head lice are migratory parasites that are transfered through direct contact from person to person. It is preposterous to think that you can control the spread of infestation by limiting an infected persons access to certain parts of the house, as head lice can simply fall off one persons head and just simply crawl up to another. Head lice can easily be transferred through the sharing of combs and head brushes. The use of Permethrin formulated shampoos does the job but it will take several sessions of using this type of shampoo. Besides killing off the head lice themselves, Permethrin also penetrates the head lice eggs, causing it to die eventually after several uses of the shampoo. Believe me, it is a far better method than shearing off your children’s hair and your kids will thank you for that!

But don’t think that that will be the last that your family will ever experience that, as it can be a reoccurring problem for the years to come. It is advised that when a problem like head lice happens again, be sure to have a Permethrin formulated shampoo around the house.

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About the author

I am 53 years old and live in Miami. I have two kids, one boy and one girl with my wife Linda. My son Jon is now 19 years old and in College. My daughter Jennifer is 14 and still in High-School. We also have a dog. When I don’t work in the marketing department of a health company, I like to spend time outdoors with my family and friends. I don’t do as much sport as I should but my family and me go on a skiing vacation at least once a year.