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Head Lice: What Parents Should Know

Head Lice, also known scientifically as Pediculus Humanis Capitis, are wingless parasitic insects that feed off human blood and cause severe itching of the Head.

Having head lice does not mean that you or your family is dirty, nor does it indicate uncleanliness.

ALL ethnic groups are affected all over the world. Hawaiians call them "uku's", New Zealanders calls them "Kutu's" - the same annoying thing, just different names. But call them what you like, as small as they are, they can still cause anxiety to many families who have had to deal with them. You may have tried many times to eradicate head lice and spent hundreds of dollars on products just to find them back again a few weeks later.

Pediculosis is the general term used for the infestation of the body or hair with adult lice, nymph and nits (eggs). Head lice are relatively common and are not a major health hazard, yet!

Parents cringe when their child's school calls to pick them up because they are infested or they have made the discovery themselves. No-one to date has found a sure-fire way of totally eradicating head lice in a community. There may be "miracle cures" offered but few live up to the claims.

Head lice are a common problem throughout the world. Schools do not give people head lice, people bring head lice to schools. Head lice are also brought to churches, supermarkets, sports fields and homes by people. A population is likely to host head lice most of the time. Infestation levels rise and fall for no apparent reason and sometimes head lice appear to be epidemic while at other times they appear to be on holiday in another community.

Controlling head lice requires people in a community act as a whole.



What do they look like?

Lice are about the size of a sesame seed, clear in color when first hatched and become brown after they feed. They tend to blend with the host head and can move very quickly, scurrying away from light.

Head lice are small insects approximately 2 to 4 mm long and about 1mm wide. They have six legs with claws and are usually a light or dark brown colour.

Eggs (nits) are small and hard like a grain of salt and are yellow-white in colour. Eggs are usually found on the hair very close to the scalp. Those found further from the scalp than one to one and half centimeters from the scalp are probably dead or hatched.

Sometimes a person with head lice or eggs might feel itchy, but not always.

How do you get them?

You can get head lice by sharing the same bed or clothes (such as hats, jackets), combs, brushes, backpacks, just to name a few, with an infested person. Lice (kutu/uku/utu) crawl from person to person. They DO NOT jump or fly or swim, they can only crawl (if you were wondering). They can survive only 1-2 days away from a host (human head). As the lice can only survive on human blood, it needs to feed at least every 3 hours.

Head lice crawl from head to head. Because young children are often in close proximity to one another in the playground or the classroom, or in close proximity to family adults at home, head lice have opportunities to move from one head to another. It is impossible to know the origin of an out-break!

Our services are not limited to just children; unfortunately head lice do not discriminate. You might even discover them on yourself! We can help you too.

Who can get them?

Anyone! If you have close contact with anyone infested its possible you can catch them too.

Although most are commonly found on school aged children. They do not discriminate & are not limited to certain age groups, because all they want to do is suck your bloooooooood.!

We consider them as uninvited hitch-hikers going along for a free ride and a free meal and why not start a family (on your child’s head) and cause some headaches on the way.

Head lice do not cause disease and are not considered a health hazard - yet!
They may cause an uncomfortable itching. At worst, a child with head lice may scratch excessively and break the scalp possibly allowing infection in. An infestation of head lice should be detected and dealt with long before it becomes either highly visible or irritating.

PREVENT HEAD LICE

  • Avoid head to head contact.
  • Don't share brushes, combs, hats and other items that come into contact with hair.
  • Discourage children from playing with each others' hair.
  • Tie long hair back or plait it.
  • Brush hair regularly.
  • Check the hair of everyone in the family at least once a week.
  • Take action if a child is scratching unusually - check their head carefully.

Managing the condition is equally important.
Although your child may have been treated, hair should still be combed & checked for lice on a regular basis. If left too long, your child may unknowingly be infected or, at worst infect someone else....(and we don't want that now, do we!)

Treatment

Ideally, once head lice are detected in a school, the whole school community should take action at the same time and over a period of weeks. One untreated head in a community can ensure an outbreak continues for months.

Treatment must be thorough, regular and carried out over a period of weeks by everyone. Even so, such treatment will not prevent a re-infestation originating from another community. Head lice are always lapping up the luxuries of a new human host.

Effective treatment doesn’t have to be expensive. A combination of methods is likely to be most successful.

Dry combing

This method is for removal of head lice and eggs.

  • Use a metal fine-toothed comb. The National Pediculosis Association in the United States recommends combs that have individually tooled rounded teeth that are evenly spaced and set in a plastic handle.
  • Finger nails can effectively remove eggs.

Some combs will extract adult head lice only and leave the eggs; the closer together the teeth of the comb are, the more successful combing will be.




Wet combing

This method, using any kind of hair conditioner, is for detection and removal of head lice and eggs. It is recommended that this treatment be repeated on alternate days for three weeks. The idea is to smother the head lice with conditioner, preventing them moving away, and to allow manual removal.

  • Apply enough conditioner (much more than usual) on dry hair to thoroughly cover the whole scalp and all the hair from the roots to the tips.
  • Keep the conditioner in the hair. Conditioner stuns the insects for about 20 minutes.
  • Comb the hair straight and get knots out with an ordinary comb.
  • Use a fine-toothed comb to systematically comb the hair. Comb the full length of each hair.
  • Wipe the comb with a clean tissue after each stroke of the comb.
  • After thorough combing and inspection, wash the conditioner out.

DON’T HAVE TIME?

These days most parents are both working and don’t have time to make sure their children’s heads are lice-free by regular checking, until they either notice their children scratching or are alerted by the school.

While Dad and Mom are at work, finding the time (or person) to tediously remove and treat the infestation maybe another time consuming problem. Not anymore! Let us help you.

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