Has your child ever complained of an itchy scalp? Did your child ever report red bumps on his scalp, neck or shoulders? Have you ever received notifications from school administrators about head lice infestation in the school? Were you ever afraid that head lice would strike your household?
You’re not alone. According to US health officials, 6 to 12 million American men, women and children get head lice each and every year. While it’s not a disease, a case of head lice is embarrassing for the one stricken as well as for the other household members who must suffer through it or take adequate precautions.
What are Head Lice?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) head lice or “pediculus humanus capitis” is the most common form of lice. Head lice are parasitic insects that attach themselves to human scalps. Adult female lice lay eggs or “nits.” These nits attach to the base of the hair shaft, closest to the scalp, and are often confused with common dandruff. In 7 to 10 days, the nit hatches into a baby louse called a nymph. Nymphs become an adults in 10 days and only live for about 30 days or so. To sustain life, nymphs and adult lice feed on blood. If they can’t find enough blood, they will die within 2 days.
Head lice are very common but terribly uncomfortable for the afflicted. Families that have to deal with combating lice face an uphill battle when they soon discover that head lice are very difficult to eradicate.
How To Prevent Head Lice
The sad and awful truth is that anyone at anytime can get head lice. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, you’re at greatest risk for getting head lice if you come into close contact with someone who is already infested with head lice. Head-to-head contact is the most common way to get head lice. Or, you can get head lice from using the personal items of belonging to someone who has lice. Children ages 3 to 10 and their families are at greatest risk for head lice infestation. This has more to do with contact than personal hygiene which has absolutely nothing to do with getting head lice.
How to prevent head lice from striking you and your household? Try the following:
Head Lice Prevention Tip 1.
Don’t share personal items like combs or brushes, hats, coats, scarves, or towels. Girls and women are more likely to get head lice than men, probably because they share these common personal items.
Head Lice Prevention Tip 2.
Don’t share sleeping items, like blankets, pillows and stuffed animals. Provide each child with their own blanket, pillow, stuffed animal or other plush toy.
Head Lice Prevention Tip 3.
Avoid contact with infested girls, boys, women and men, and their personal items, including hats and headphones.
Head Lice Prevention Tip 4.
Make daily inspection of your child’s scalp and belongings part of the family routine. Pay careful attention to school administrator’s notifications on lice infestations.
Head Lice Prevention Tip 5.
If you or your child has come into contact with someone with head lice, take all precautions. Check each member of your household very carefully for any sign of head lice. Have everyone in the family wash their hair with shampoo specially formulated for head lice. Wash all bed linens and affected clothing in hot water. Put stuffed animals and other plush toys that may have come into contact with someone with head lice in plastic bags for 2 weeks. Carefully remove the items after 2 weeks and make sure you perform this task outside of the home. Soak all brushes and combs in an alcohol or hot water bath for 5 to 10 minutes. Vacuum any area that has come into contact with the infected person.
The National Pediculosis Association
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention