Head Lice Treatment

Treatment for head lice are parasitic insects that live on the scalp and neck of humans? Here are some treatment tips.

You notice your child itching and your worst fears are confirmed! Head lice! What exactly do you do?

First of all there's no cause for alarm. Yes they are annoying but that's their biggest downfall. Infested children and adults may suffer from itching and even lose sleep, have shortened attention spans and become depressed.

Headlice, officially known as pediculus humanus capitis, are small parasitic insects that live mainly on the scalp and neck of humans. They are usually 2 to 3 millimeters""mere fractions of an inch""long and are grayish white to brown in color, making them very difficult to see. In fact, they often go unnoticed until a child is noticeably scratching or a teacher checks heads at school. And since a female can lay from 50 to 150 eggs or "nits" in her adult lifespan of ten days, lice can very quickly become an infestation.

What can you do about them?

First of all, keep in mind they do not signify a lack of hygiene or cleanliness. Anyone can get headlice. School children are more susceptible because of their constant head to head contact and the sharing of items like hats, barrettes and combs.

You can head to the drugstore for a shampoo that contains permethrin or pyrethrum and is relatively safe. Avoid lindane and other insecticides and never attempt such drastic treatments as kerosene.

According to Harvard School of Public Health entomologist Richard Pollack, Ph.D., people can save a lot of money by spending time with their children and manually removing the nits.



Lice are made of material similar to that found in fingernails and are cemented to the hair, requiring removal that is aided by a special comb. Without this removal, the nits can remain in the hair for years although Pollack says nits that are more than one inch down the hair shaft have usually been there for a while and are not active infestations.

While there are home remedies like using olive oil or mayonnaise, Pollack says he wouldn't use them on his own daughter. Hairstylist, Dixie Wardell disagrees.

"The oils are good for the hair giving it some conditioning," she maintains. She adds that you'll still have to manually remove the nits""especially if your child's school has a "˜No Nits" policy.

Wardell also suggests putting a few drops of tea tree oil (available at health food stores) in your shampoo bottle.

"Tea tree oil is a natural lice preventative," she says.

"The idea to reduce or eliminate headlice is good but be rational," says Pollack. "That will make the situation more bearable for both you and your child."

For more information about headlice, visit the Harvard Headlice Information Page.

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