Vital information you need to detect head lice
If you think head lice are a problem only dirty or homeless people have to deal with, think again. Anyone can contract these parasites and most people will experience them in one form or another, but it is important to understand how an infestation spreads and how the insects are passed from one host to another, as well as seeking treatments that will fix the problem once and for all.
What are lice?
• They are small wingless parasitic insects known to survive exclusively in man. They feed on small amounts of blood that they draw from the scalp.
• Despite their parasitic nature, they are not known to be dangerous to human health. However, these parasites make their presence known. They can cause an incredibly itchy head and can make it difficult for children to socialize with their peers.
• They do not have the ability to transmit human infections and diseases, unlike mosquitoes.
• These parasites are very common among children 3 to 12 years of age. Although girls are more susceptible to the parasite, due to their long hair, boys are still at some risk of becoming the last host for a head louse ready to start an infestation.
• They lay their eggs in clumps of hair belonging to the host. These eggs, also known as nits, are much more difficult to remove from the hair than live insects.
The life cycle of a louse
• An adult louse finds a new host, either by direct contact (through touch) or indirect contact (by sharing clothing and possessions that have been in contact with the insect) with another host.
• The adult louse lays eggs daily, adhering the nits to the hair using chitin.
• Nits mature and hatch after 7 to 14 days after being laid, giving birth to nymphs.
• Nymphs are much smaller than fully grown adult insects. The nymphs will take 7-14 days to mature to adulthood.
• The average life cycle of an adult louse is 30 days, as long as it remains in contact with its host.
• Losing contact with their host can drastically reduce a louse’s lifespan to just 72 hours!
• Any lice require a constant source of heat and food, and the only place they can find this is on humans. They cannot survive in domestic pets.
How to tell if your child has an infestation
Detecting the presence of these parasites is not as easy as casually checking your child’s head. Because the insects are so small, they are very hard to spot, especially in the early stages. More often than not, most parents don’t realize they have a head lice problem until it becomes a full blown infestation. This can be very overwhelming and traumatic for both the parent and the child.
One of the first signs of an infestation is persistent scratching of the scalp. The scalp will be red, itchy, and sore in spots. It all depends on the tolerance of the scalp to the new activity. If the scalp does not react to the bites and movements of the parasites, it can be difficult to detect a possible infestation early.
Use a nit comb at least once a week to make sure your child is free of nits or eggs, even if you don’t suspect an infestation. This method will help you quickly spot the bugs if they manage to infiltrate your home.