Head lice are a common infestation in children. They usually get them from their play mates, school friends and those employed to look after them. Head lice are tiny black or brown parasites. They suck the blood of the host. They are wingless and cling on to hair or scurry around on the scalp. They lay their eggs on the hair shaft. These eggs are called nits and are very tiny and pale yellow in color. They are difficult to pull off the hair.
Lice cannot fly so they spread from one person to another mainly through contact. Small children play together or sit close together at desks in school. Their heads often come in contact. Lice migrate quickly from one head to another. When children come home, these lice spread to all family members as soon as they come in close contact.
The time period which lice can live on inanimate objects is about twenty four hours. So if children share items worn or used on the head with each other, head lice find an avenue to infect more and more people. These items can be combs, brushes, hats, clips, hair bands and head phones. In the home sharing pillows and bed linen, blankets and furniture cannot be avoided. Head lice spread through this mode as well.
An apparent, and often only symptom, is repeated scratching of the head. Spread the hair and check for lice and nits. If head lice are found in even one person in the house all members should take treatment. Many over the counter shampoos and medication are available which can be applied on the scalp and the hair to kill lice and their eggs. In case of small children, ask a doctor to prescribe medication.
Dead lice can be combed out with a fine tooth comb but nits will have to be pulled off individually. Soak all combs and brushes in boiling hot soapy water for at least ten minutes. There after clean them thoroughly. Dip hair bands, ribbons etc. also in the same manner or discard them if possible. Advise your children not to share these things with anybody.
You will have to disinfect all bed linen by boiling it for fifteen minutes in soapy water. Then dry on high heat for twenty minutes or spread out in the sun for four to five hours. Likewise treat blankets. Vacuum all furniture and if possible wipe with a cloth dipped in disinfectant. Toys like stuffed animals can be washed and put in a polythene bag closed tightly and kept aside for fifteen days so that any lice present are killed.
As a precaution wash your child’s hair with shampoo meant for lice once in fifteen days.