Lice are tiny insects that can live on people's skin or in their hair. There are three different kinds of lice: 1) Head lice live on your scalp and in your hair; this is the most common type. 2) Body lice live in your clothes and feed off of the body (these are rare). 3) Pubic lice, also called crabs, live in your eyebrows, eyelashes, facial hair and pubic hair. This article will discuss head lice, the most common form of lice.
Head lice are tiny grayish-white insects. The female louse usually lives for about a month and lays approximately 7 to 10 eggs per day. These eggs are called nits. The eggs hatch after 8 days and the cycle repeats itself. The eggs are easier to see once they hatch. The eggs are attached firmly to the hair and look white. Symptoms of lice are intense itching and skin irritation of the scalp, neck and ears. Lice are spread by direct hair to hair contact and also can be spread by sharing combs or hats. Lice are diagnosed by examination of the scalp and hair.
There are several options for treating lice. Some of these are over the counter and others are prescription. These treatments include creams, lotions, and pills. If your child is over the age of 2 you can try the over-the-counter lice treatments available. If the child is under 2 contact your healthcare provider. Follow the directions for the treatment carefully as they vary. Also using a nit comb is important. Many treatments recommend that you repeat them in 7 to 10 days after the first application because some lice are able to survive the first treatment. Some lice have become resistant to treatments that are available. If you are having trouble getting rid of the lice contact your health care provider as there are other medications that can be used.
It is important that all clothing, bedding and towels used within 48 hours of treatment be washed in hot soapy water and dried in the dryer on hot setting. All furniture, carpet and car seats should be vacuumed. Items that can't be washed should be sealed in a plastic bag for 2 weeks. Don’t forget about stuffed animals. Wash all brushes and combs in hot soapy water or better yet throw away and purchase new.
Adults and children who live with a person diagnosed with lice should be examined for lice and treated if needed. Anyone who sleeps in the same bed should be treated for lice even if no lice or eggs are found.
Anyone can get lice; it is not a sign of being dirty or sick. You can get rid of lice with proper treatment and there are no long-term health problems associated with having head lice. Prevention is important. Do not share hats, combs, brushes or clothing. If you have questions consult your health care provider.