Your child does or may have lice 2009-09
Your Child Does (Or May) Have Lice
You don’t think so? You are positive they don’t? Think again. “But my child doesn’t
itch or scratch. Besides, I’ve checked and there isn’t anything!” Well, guess what! Your
child does (or may) have lice.
On Friday, 18 January (2007), Patricia Aiyenuro spoke to the PTA. She is an
entomologist and is doing her PhD on head lice. Our family has been a victim of this
parasite and I wanted a front row seat to her talk. Besides the stigma (who wants to
admit their family is afflicted?) and the frustration of treatment (I’ve tried everything) I
wanted to know what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. Here are some
highlights for those who were unable to attend this riveting talk! You Can Have Lice And Not Know It.
Myth 1: I don’t itch so I don’t have lice.
Like mosquitoes, lice bite, suck blood and deposit saliva in the bite. Like mosquitoes,
some people have a strong reaction to the bite (the saliva) and itch like mad and some
people don’t feel anything. If you don’t itch, it doesn’t mean you don’t have lice… Myth 2: I have searched the head and there aren’t any lice.
Lice have evolved extremely well over the last several thousand years and can move very
rapidly. They have also adapted to their surroundings. Like chameleons, they change
their colour to match the hair type: almost black on dark hair and very light brown on
blonde hair. There may only be 4 or 5 on a head and with their ability to hide, they are
extremely difficult to detect. Did I mention that they are very, very small? Myth 3: I’ve used products that include malathion or permethrin so they’ve all been
Sadly, these chemicals work in only 25% of the cases, meaning 75% of the critters
remain after the treatment. And in those few cases they only kill the adults. They do not
kill the eggs, which will hatch in 7 to 10 days. Lice have built up a resistance as these
chemicals have been used in lotions for over 30 years. Some people apply the lotions to
children as a preventative measure, which only contributes to lice building up resistance
to these chemicals. So How Do I Know If My Child Or I Have Lice?
Check the head when the hair is wet.
Lice can only move very slowly when they are wet and therefore cannot hide. Visual
detection is still difficult as their population may be small so Patricia recommends using a
special comb that removes the lice. A very thorough combing will remove lice but not
their eggs. Please see below for Patricia’s recommended regime for lice removal and the
Oh No, I’ve Found (Insert Number!) Lice On My Child! Now What?
1. Don’t be embarrassed!
If your family hasn’t been afflicted, you should consider yourself lucky (or maybe you
haven’t used the above method to check and your family happens to host lice without the
itching!). Lice are VERY common, more common than many know. 2. Check regularly.
It’s in our school. It’s in all schools. Unless your child wears a helmet or is bald then
there is a risk of infection. Lice can only transfer from head to head (see below for more
lice facts). Diligent and regular checking by all families will reduce the rate of affliction
of your child and others. 3. Assure your child that they are not “dirty” and that it’s not their fault (or
We forget how our children feel when they are infected. It isn’t fun. If your child has
never had lice (that you know of!) please help them be sympathetic to those who have
been afflicted. Lice, Eggs, Nits
s are attached to the base of the hair strand with a cement-like substance. It is nearly
impossible to remove them. They may be light or dark coloured and blend with the hair
colour, depending on the louse’s chameleon ability. Eggs hatch 7-10 days after being
are extremely small upon hatching and grow large enough to be seen with the naked
eye. As noted, they may be either dark or light. They may have a red colouring if they
have recently ingested blood (yuck!). Lice become fertile 10 days after hatching. Nits
are the empty egg casing. They are light in colour and are generally a few
centimetres from the base of the hair strand. Though difficult, nits can be removed from
the hair strand. Nits in the hair does not mean that lice are currently present. Lice may
have successfully been removed, no eggs may remain but nits may still be present. There
is no risk of lice transfer if this is the case. How To Get Rid Of Lice!
Patricia recommends the Bug Buster Kit
. It does not use pesticides. It is a selection of
specially shaped plastic combs that are used on wet hair to remove lice. Use any brand of
shampoo and conditioner with this method.
1. Wash hair with shampoo and rinse. 2. Apply conditioner. 3. Carefully comb through the hair with the recommended comb to remove all
4. Rinse. 5.While rinsing, comb through the hair again with the recommended comb to
remove any lice that have been dislodged.
6. If lice are found, repeat the above steps on the following schedule: four wet
combing sessions at half-weekly intervals. This should remove the lice that hatch from the eggs, which may have been laid.
7. Remember to check at regular intervals to make sure that lice have not re-
Bug Busting Kit is available from school for £5. A single Bug Busting Comb is available
from school for 60 pence (buy several to put in your travel kit and bathrooms). Both the
kit and the single comb pack come with illustrated instructions.
The Bug Buster Kit is also available as follows: £5.95 + P&P from
www.chc.org/products_kit.cfm or at selected pharmacies. Community Hygiene Concern
(www.chc.org) is a registered charity.
If using natural products like tea tree oil or lotions with neem, please do not use them at
full strength as they may burn the skin.
Though heat and dehydration would suggest that blow dryers may be an effective way of
killing lice, the amount of air required to dehydrate lice may cause scalp injury,
especially on children. Please use extreme caution. Lice Facts And Fiction
Fiction: They fly and jump. WRONG
Fiction: Lice transfer to a new head on coats/hats/backpacks/blankets/combs/brushes/etc.
WRONG Note: It’s still not a good idea to share these items for general hygiene reasons.
Fiction: They like clean hair. WRONG Fiction: They like dirty hair. WRONG Fiction: Electric, zapping combs work. WRONG Fiction: Seeing nits in the hair means there are still lice present. WRONG Fact: Lice eat 3 to 4 meals a day of blood. Fact: They live in a warm environment (heads are perfect). Fact: Lice can ONLY transfer by head to head contact (hair to hair). Because they live in
a humid, warm environment, they begin to dehydrate and die shortly after leaving the host. They cannot live more than 24 hours away from the host.
Fact: Placing items in the dryer will dehydrate and kill lice that may have come in contact
Remember: Lice lay eggs. If you find any lice on the head and successfully remove them you still need to repeat the treatment on a regular basis in order to remove the lice that hatch from the eggs. See the above schedule.
NB: I have used “lice” throughout this essay and am referring only to head lice. NB: I wrote this article about 2 years ago and have used this method SUCCESSFULLY (finally, something that is reliable and actually works!!!). That doesn’t mean that my children were not re-infected at school at some later time but at least I have the peace of mind that I can now eradicate them successfully. Pamela Sears
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