As a Consultant Trichologist practising in Haywards Heath, I felt it prudent to share my knowledge and experience on this subject. For me to explain some facts about these little parasites which can affect all of us especially school children.
Contrary to popular belief they are neither a sign of poor hygiene nor can they jump or fly!!! Lice will only transfer directly from one hair shaft to another person’s hair to a source of food (the scalp blood), by walking. Therefore long hair is best worn plaited or tied up. It is both the movement of the louse across the scalp, which can be quick, and it pierced the skin to feed that causes the feeling of itching to the sufferer. In untreated and extreme cases, head lice cause a secondary infection, impetigo, which is highly contagious and often requires anti biotics.
It is most important that each parent checks the whole family, including adults (as we all hug and cuddle our children we are not immune)! The adult louse is the size of a sesame seed, has 6 legs and is a tan/ grey white colour and moving. The Nit (egg) is a yellow/ white oval shape, easily mistaken for “dandruff” but is stuck to the hair. The gestation period for this immature egg is 7 days, therefore, it is essential that the treatment is repeated after this time to kill off the newly hatched eggs.
There are various treatments available over the counter from pharmacies; however lotions are much more efficient than shampoos. Nit combs have much smaller and finer teeth for removing the eggs which can also be done by using a conditioner and sliding the eggs down the hair shaft with the forefinger and thumb, on longer hair this could be a timely hobby!
I make a point of checking my children at least once a week whilst in the bath and their hair is wet. Starting from the nape, I make small partings with a comb moving quickly towards the front hairline (in case a louse is just ahead of my comb, moving very quickly), treating with lotion if lice present, then removing dead lice 2-3 days later with a comb, then after 7-10 days treat with preparation again- to ensure all lice are gone.
The best way of preventing re-infestation in schools where the problem is severe is a treatment programme to be carried out by the parents on all children at the same time. I hope this has been helpful and informative.
For further information, please visit our Head Lice article on our Knowledge Base section.