Prevention and Treatment of Head Lice

What is Head Lice?

Head lice are tiny insects that attach to hair follicles in the scalp and are nourished by the blood. Prevention to avoid head lice centers on avoiding close contact with other heads, bedding, and brushes. It is so easy for head lice to attach to the hair and that causes it to spread easily. Head lice make the head itch, so head scratching is a clear symptom. Sometimes the lice can be visible even though they are tiny. It is the lice eggs, called nits that attach to hair shafts.  Head lice are not an issue of cleanliness and bad hygiene; head lice do not carry infection.

How do head lice spread?

Head lice spread quickly when there is close contact. That is why children are more likely to have head lice; they are in close contact in day care centers, and schools, and after-school activities. Head lice crawl, but they crawl quickly. So when heads are close together it is lice to spread. Be careful using the same brush, hat, or pillow and bedding.

How to prevent head lice

Prevention can be difficult. However, some simple steps such as not sharing brushes and other personal products may help. Home remedies, such as essential oils including rosemary, citronella, eucalyptus, tea tree, and lemongrass might help deter head lice.

What are the best ways to treat head lice?

There are lice shampoos sold over the counter. These have some success in treating head lice, but carefully read and follow instructions. The key is to be very thorough in treating head lice. Use the same product; do not use two different products as the ingredients may cause a reaction when used together. Make sure to only use the lice shampoo on the head and not the whole body. Then carefully use the lice comb on sectioned hair to remove the nits and lice.  This process may need to be repeated over a number of days.

If the lice are still evident after several days, you might want to see your dermatologist for a prescribed head lice medication.  Head lice may spread through the family, so be aware. Wash all brushes and combs in water higher than 130°. Bag all stuffed animals and pillows to suffocate any live lice. Items that can’t be washed can be put in the dryer on its highest setting for 30 minutes.

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