Head lice is also known as pediculosis. Head lice are very common. In fact, the estimated annual cost of treating head lice in the United States is about a billion dollars. Children of all races and social standings who attend a camp, day care or school are potential candidates for a head lice infestation. In school, children share things like hair brushes, hair bows, hats and coats. If one child is affected by head lice and their coat is in a locker or hanger with other coats, every child in that class has the potential to be affected by head lice. Lice, like other bugs, have a variety of life-stages from egg to adult.
Adult lice are the fully grown bugs that lay eggs on the hair shaft and cement them in place with a substance similar to super glue. An adult louse may be tan, gray or off-white in color with a 30-day lifespan if allowed to remain on a human. It has 6 legs and is about the size of a sesame seed; larger than a flea. They are very visible when crawling on the scalp or skin. Head lice feed on the blood of human hosts and easily pass from person to person. If a live louse falls off of a person and doesn't find another host within a couple of days, they will die.
Lice Eggs and Nymphs
Lice eggs, or nits, are very difficult to see and may be confused with dandruff or dried hair styling products. They are firmly attached to the hair near the scalp and are quite difficult to remove without solvents. If the egg remains stuck to the hair, it will hatch in about 7 days. Once hatched it is called a nymph, or baby louse. Nymphs have much the same appearance as an adult louse, but they are smaller and a little more difficult to see. Like an adult louse, a nymph feeds on human blood to survive. Nymphs mature into adult lice and start laying eggs in about 7 days.
Signs and Symptoms of Head Lice
The most common symptom of head lice is itching. Every scalp itch isn't going to mean you have a head lice infestation though. Don't start looking for treatments until you're certain the itching is being caused by head lice. Use a bright light and part the hair in 1/4 inch sections so you can see the scalp very well. If you see live bugs, you are infected. Check carefully over and behind the ears and the back of the neck for very small flakes that feel like they have been glued to the base of the hair. Nits are more difficult to identify than adult lice or nymphs but not impossible.
Treatments for Head Lice
Treatments for head lice range from natural to chemical treatments. A natural treatment is just as it sounds; natural. Natural head lice treatments may be oils or essential extracts from herbs. Vinegar, olive oil and mayonnaise are very common natural and effective treatments for head lice. Chemical treatments on the other hand are chemical in nature and often include nerve agents or other pesticides. Treatments for head lice often require more than 2 applications due to a fashion coats louse's life cycle and different stages of development.
For instance, oils and most natural remedies won't kill the egg, but some chemical treatments will. Even the most effective chemical treatment designed to kill adult lice, nymphs and eggs may need to be applied more than one time to ensure all lice have been killed.