One common problem in kids as well as in elders is head lice. These parasites do not virtually cause any harm to the health, but they can be extremely annoying because of the itching that they cause. Most people have a strong misconception that the scalp itching caused by the lice is because of their biting, but the fact is that the itching is caused by an allergy. Since not everyone is allergic to the lice, the itching does not occur in them. Hence, it becomes quite difficult for you to recognise lice infection. In this article you will know about how do you get lice and ways to get rid of lice using medicine and home remedies but before that let's know more about Lice and the signs and symptoms of having head lice.

What are Lice?

Pediculus humanus capitis or commonly known as the head louse, is a tiny parasitic insect that is found on the head, eyebrows or even the eyelashes of people. Although they do not spread disease, they feed on the human blood that they suck from the scalp, several times a day.

Life Cycle of a Louse

Life cycle of a louse lasts for a month in an average. The female louse lays an egg or the nit and sticks it close to the hair shaft near the scalp. The scalp temperature and the warmth is a perfect atmosphere for the nits to survive, thrive and hatch. These nits cannot be brushed off or removed by shaking them, although they look like dandruff.

After 1 to 2 weeks of laying the eggs, the eggs hatch. Once the eggs are hatched, the nymphs take 1 to 2 weeks after hatching, to grow into an adult. A female louse, after 9 days of being hatched, starts to lay eggs. After every 3 weeks, this process is repeated, if not treated.

Signs and Symptoms of having Head Lice

Symptoms of Having Head Lice

Usually the kids are more likely to get the lice, but the elders too can get them. The lice are very tiny, but they can be seen with naked eyes. The eggs of the lice, known as the nits, become a bit more difficult to be seen as they stay stuck close to the roots of the hair with a sticky, glue like material. However, with the common signs and symptoms of having lice in your head, you can effectively understand if you or someone else has got lice.

  • Nits or Lice Eggs:

The nits of the lice are tan, brown or yellow in colour. They look like tiny dots before they hatch. Once the nits are hatched, they look like white and clear shells. Once the eggs are hatched and the hair starts to grow, the egg shells move from scalp to the tip. It is at this time that these shells become easier to notice.

  • Scratching and Itching:

Scratching and itching is associated with lice bites. However, it is not because of the bite, but because of the saliva of the lice that causes the itching. As the lice walk through the scalp, it becomes quite annoying.

  • Small Red Bumps on the Head:

Sometimes, kids get rashes on their head due to the scratching and itching. If the scratching is severe, it can lead to bacterial infection.

How Do You Get Lice?

  • Lice Can't Fly or Jump:

People often think that lice can jump or fly and thus get into other people's head. But actually, lice spread only when the heads come into contact with other's heads. Even sharing the combs, hats, barrettes, clothes, headbands and brushes can spread the lice. Bedding, bed sheets, pillowcases, sleeping bags and blankets can also spread lice.

  • Lice Has Nothing to do With Personal Hygiene:

Lice can spread on every head that it comes into contact with. It has nothing to do with personal hygiene. If you think lice cannot spread on cleanest of the people, you are mistaken.

  • Lice Can't Spread From Pets:

These parasites (Lice) that the humans get on their heads are 'species specific' and they do not infect the pets. The kind of parasites that spread on the pets cannot infest the human head.

Moreover, swimming cannot spread head lice. Head lice hold the hair tightly and does not let go of the hold. However, it can survive under water.

Who is at Risk for Getting Lice?

Lice are very common and are found worldwide. However, head lice are most commonly found on pre-school children, elementary school children, children attending child care and the household members of an infested child. This is because these people are most likely to come into close contact with the infested children and other people. Children get the lice from other children while playing or doing something together. Anyone who comes to close contact with an infested head will get the lice. It can occur from sharing the brush, combs and other items and hence, the elders too can get the lice.

Ways to Get Rid of Lice

  • Medicine that Can Help Get Rid of Lice:

Using a pediculicide is the best and the fastest way to kill the lice. Read the instructions and directions written on the container of the pediculicide. Wear a light coloured cloth and use a fine comb meant to remove the lice. Gently apply the formula and let it work on the lice. Some formulas can kill the nits, nymphs as well as the adults and some can kill only the adults. In case yours works only on the adult lice, you need to re-apply it after a week, letting the existing nits to hatch and grow into adults. Make sure that you let the formula stay on the head for two days without shampooing. You can wash the head with normal water, but shampoo only after two days of the application and re-apply as directed.

Combing will let the lice fall on the clean cloth and you will be able to see if it is working or not. When you are combing the hair with the fine lice comb, sanitize it to a high temperature by putting the comb into a bowl of hot water. Once the comb touches the lice or nits, the temperature will kill the existing lice. As soon as the lice are combed out, put the comb into hot water bowl or a bowl of soap water.

  • Home Remedies to Get Rid of Lice:

Certain home remedies can also help in getting rid of the lice. Here are some of the effective remedies-

Home Remedies to Get Rid of Lice

  • Using Mayonnaise to Get Rid of Lice:

Grab a handful of mayonnaise and spread it onto the scalp. Cover the head with a plastic shower cap to prevent the dripping off of the mayonnaise. After two hours, remove the cap and shampoo the hair to clean the mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is an effective home remedy that will kill the lice and the eggs. Repeat this process for two months, once a week. After shampooing, use a hair dryer as the heat will kill the existing lice.

  • Home Remedy for Lice Using Vaseline:

Use hair oil for adult heads and baby oil for your kid to cover the hair and the head. Then saturate the hair with Vaseline. Leave it for a few hours. You can leave it overnight on the hair. Then squeeze as much of the Vaseline as possible. Wash the hair at least thrice with dish soap.

  • Using Vinegar to Remove Lice:

Mixing mineral oil and vinegar in equal portions can be a useful home remedy to get rid of Lice. Apply it on the scalp and leave it overnight, covering the head with a shower cap. Shampoo the hair with regular shampoo.

  • Using Camphor and Coconut Oil to Remove the Lice:

Warm the coconut oil and add a little camphor to it. Coconut oil can kill the lice by suffocating them. Apply the oil on the scalp and massage gently. Leave overnight by putting a shower cap and then shampoo the hair the next morning. Comb the hair to remove the dead lice. Repeat this process at least 5 days in a row to completely eradicate the lice.

  • Home Remedy Using Tea Tree Oil, Olive Oil and Eucalyptus Oil to Get Rid of Lice:

Mix a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo and apply it on your hair. Let it dry for a few minutes and then wash the hair off. When the hair is dry, remove the dead lice using a nit comb. You can also mix tea tree oil, olive oil and eucalyptus oil together and apply it on hair. Let it work for 20 to 30 minutes and then shampoo the hair. Repeat this process twice a week for two months.

  • Onion Juice- An Effective Home Remedy to Fight Lice:

Onions are rich in sulphur and can effectively kill the lice. Grind some onions in a mixer grinder and strain the juice. Massage the juice on your scalp and cover the head with a shower cap for two hours. Shampoo the hair thoroughly with luke warm water and remove the dead lice using a nit comb.

How do you Prevent Head Lice from Affecting you and Also from Coming Back?

Lice are "obligate parasites" that don't survive very long without their human host. They die within 24 to 48 hours once they are removed from their host. To make sure that the lice do not come back once they are removed from your or your child's head, you can take some of these measures. However, none of these are guarantee that these lice won't infest again.

  • Change the clothing and bed linens of every person and in the entire household. Wash the hats, coats, scarves and gloves and all other items used by the infested person in hot water.
  • Soak combs, brushes, and hair accessories in 2% Lysol or 10% bleach for an hour.
  • Dry everything with a dryer.

When lice infest your head, try the effective treatment methods to remove them. It takes some time, but lice can be killed and removed.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: June 28, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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