A louse (plural lice) is a very tiny parasitic insect that attaches itself to the human body and lives among human hairs, feeding on tiny amounts of blood drawn from the skin several times a day. There are three different types of lice – head lice, body lice and pubic lice.
Lice can’t survive outside a host’s body beyond twenty-four hours, but because they reproduce very fast, they can be very hard to get rid of. Head lice infestation is a very common problem that affects millions of people globally especially children and their caregivers.
The condition can be quite frustrating and annoying, they are highly contagious and while lice are not dangerous and do not cause any serious health problem, they can nevertheless cause unpleasant symptoms and also lead to infections. If detected early enough, treatment can be easier.
What are the symptoms of head lice?
Head lice are very tiny and can be hard to spot, especially in persons with thick hair. Nevertheless, they can be seen by the naked eye. Some persons do not show any symptoms when affected but some do. For those who do, symptoms may include:
- Itchy and irritated scalp followed by scratching
- Small red bumps or sores on the scalp from scratching, which may become infected
- Visible lice eggs on the scalp. Lice eggs are called nits and they can appear somewhat like dandruff on hair strands close to the scalp
- Visible adult lice on the scalp
- A sensation of things moving around or tickling the head
How is head lice contacted and spread?
Lice do not have wings; they can neither fly nor jump, they are therefore spread through direct contact. They can be spread through hats, hairbrushes, towels and clothing.
How can it be treated?
It is important to note that head lice infestation is not caused by poor hygiene and anyone, especially children, is at risk. Treatment of head lice is very important and necessary.
It is best to see a doctor who would prescribe the appropriate treatment. Besides medical intervention, it is important to:
- Check for head lice in other household members
- Remove lice from the hair manually using fine-toothed comb
- Wash all bedding and clothing that may be exposed to head lice
- Dry clothes in the sun
- Soak combs and brushes in hot water for some minutes