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Lice Treatment & Prevention

Author: Dr. William Rappaport
Date: November 2016

Has your child ever had head lice? If so you know just how irritating it can be to get rid of them!

What are Lice? hair lice identification

Lice and their nits are annoying frustrating little parasites that are not dangerous, but highly contagious if not treated. They do not spread disease. However, they are itchy on the scalp causing scratching, which can lead to infection on the head and the spreading of these bloodsuckers. Adult lice are wingless parasites that attach themselves to the hair shaft. They have claws that allow them to crawl and cling firmly to the hair. It is easy to spread lice from person to person. Children get them by sharing hats, laying head to head, and using pillows of someone infested with the bugs and nits. They are common at summer camps, schools, childcare centers, slumber parties, sports activities, and potentially seats on a train. Some schools will have lice checks at the beginning of the year. However if your child is itching or has been away in areas where kids are in close contact with each other you should always just do a head check.

Lice have an evolution like all living things in the universe. Lice start out as eggs called nits, which are laid close to the hair shaft on the scalp. The eggs hatch 1 or 2 weeks after they are laid. The newborn nymphs immediately start feeding and quickly develop into adults which can feed up to several times a day. Most lice infestations are caught when they are eggs or have just hatched.

Treatment

Medicated over the counter lice treatments such as Pyrethrins (Rid, Nix) usually kill the lice, but it may take a few days for the itching to stop. Treatment consists of washing the hair with medicated shampoo and removing the lice and nits by hand using a fine toothcomb section by section. It must be done on wet conditioned hair. The combing must be repeated every day for at least 7-10 days. The use of oils, (Tee Tree, Olive) have varying results and are popular to use daily after combing. Lice are often resistant to OTC medications. If this should occur, Malathion (Ovide), Benzyl Alcohol (Olesfia), Spinosad (Natroba), and Ivermectin (Sklice) can be used on older children.

At home it is recommended all sheets, pillowcases, hats, stuffed animals, and clothes should be washed and dried on a high temperature to ensure the bugs die. Carpets and upholstery must be vacuumed. If you treat properly, follow the directions, and are vigilant each night the infestation should be over.

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