What are lice?

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What are lice?

Lice are tiny wingless insects. They live among the hair of human beings and feed on the blood of the scalp.

Head lice are a very common problem, especially in young children. But teens can have them too. They are spread between people very easily and sometimes it is very difficult to get rid of them. Their bites can cause itching and irritation of the scalp, and scratching can lead to infections.

Lice are annoying, but they are not dangerous or spread any disease. They are not an indicator of poor hygiene – lice need blood to live, regardless of whether a person’s scalp is clean or dirty.

What are the signs and symptoms of lice?

Lice are very small but can be seen, although it is not always easy. An adult louse is grayish-white or cinnamon-brown in color and is the size of a small sesame seed. Lice move quickly, so lice eggs are easier to see than actual lice.

Louse eggs are called nits . Nits look like dandruff, but they do not shed from hair when brushed. Lice lay their nits and leave them attached to the hair, very close to the scalp. If you think you have lice and you see an oval, white dot on a strand of hair, it is most likely a nit.

When a nit is yellowish, or brown, it means that the louse has not yet hatched from the egg. When a nit is white or transparent, it means that the louse has hatched and only an empty egg remains. The incubation period for louse eggs is one to two weeks.

Aside from seeing nits or lice on your head, itching, or noticing that something is moving on your head are other clues that you might have lice. Similar to mosquito bites, the itch is a reaction to the insect’s saliva. Some people who have lice may also develop a rash, in the form of small red bumps, as a result of scratching.

How are lice treated?

The two main ways to treat lice are:

  • use medications
  • remove them manually

Medication. If you think you have lice, call your doctor. Your doctor may recommend a medically formulated shampoo, cream, or lotion to kill lice. These products can be sold with or without a prescription. It all depends on what your doctor thinks will work best for you.

Lice can be difficult to get rid of. If you continue to have lice two weeks after starting treatment to eliminate them, inform your doctor. The doctor may prefer to change the medication or repeat the treatment, if there are any nits that have hatched after the treatment.

Lice are insects; therefore, its treatment is based on the use of insecticides or pesticides. To avoid an overdose, you have to carefully follow the instructions on how much medicine to use and how often to apply it. Medication treatment usually kills the lice, but the itching may persist for a few more days.

Manual removal of lice. Your doctor may recommend combing wet hair with a comb in addition to (or as an alternative to) chemical treatment. Drug treatment is not 100% effective, so manual removal is also important.

To manually remove lice and nits, wet your hair and comb it with a fine-toothed comb (or nit) after applying conditioner or smoothing cream to your hair every 3–4 days for 3 weeks after you have seen the last lice. alive. Go checking small sections of hair each time. Pre-wetting the hair helps to temporarily immobilize the lice, and applying conditioner to the hair facilitates the sliding of the nit. When possible, it is best to have someone else handle the grooming and removal of nits and lice.

You may have heard that petroleum jelly, mayonnaise, or olive oil can suffocate lice, but these treatments may not be effective.

If you choose to remove lice without using medication, you will need to carefully remove lice and nits every week for at least 3 weeks in a row. If you detect live lice on your scalp, you will need to remove them.

Scratching a lot can lead to a scalp infection. Call your doctor as soon as possible if:

  • the skin on your scalp is very sensitive and has turned red
  • your scalp is crusted and oozing
  • you have swollen lymph nodes in your neck

Your doctor may want to treat the infection with antibiotics.

A few words on what NOT to do: Do not use a hair dryer after applying a treatment to the scalp. Some lice-killing treatments contain flammable ingredients, and no one wants their hair to catch fire! Don’t use pesticide sprays or hire a pest control company to get rid of lice because it can be dangerous. Do not useessential oils (such as ylang ylang oil or tea tree oil) to treat lice. They can cause allergic skin reactions and are not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Never use flammable chemicals, such as gasoline or kerosene.

How can I prevent lice?

Lice can often be difficult to get rid of, because nits can get stuck in your hair, or you can get re-infected with lice that were left on your bedding or other objects. Here’s what to do if you just had lice, or if someone in your family has:

  • Wash bedding and any other clothing recently worn by people with lice. Use very hot water (130 ° F [54.4 ° C]), and then run the hot cycle of the clothes dryer for at least 20 minutes.
  • Take items that cannot be washed to the dry cleaner. Or put them in a zip-lock bag for 2 weeks.
  • Vacuum rugs, rugs, upholstered furniture, and car safety seats, then throw the vacuum bag in the trash.
  • Soak hair items, such as combs, buckles, hair bands, headbands, and brushes, in hot water or throw them away.
  • Since head lice can easily move from one person to another in the same home, all family members could get head lice as well, so they should be inspected. All people with lice or nits should be treated.

Here are some ways to avoid getting head lice in the first place:

  • Try to avoid direct head-to-head contact, such as at the gym or when playing sports.
  • Do not share combs, brushes, hats, caps, scarves, bandanas, buckles, hair bands, headbands, towels, helmets or other personal items with other people.
  • Don’t lie on bedding, pillows, rugs, or rugs that someone who recently had lice used.
  • If someone in your family or school has lice, have a parent or other adult inspect your hair and scalp every 3 to 4 days to make sure you don’t have lice.