The mere mention of headlice will make most people’s hair stand on end, but these creepy critters are easier to deal with than you think. As frustrating as an infestation can be, head lice and nits can be eradicated permanently by using topical treatments and a little elbow grease. In this article, we will explain how they spread and give you a few tips on headlice prevention so that you can stop the bugs from coming back.
Lice are reddish brown bugs that live on the human head. They feed on blood, so they cannot survive on furniture, clothing or upholstery for more than two or three days. They also do not hop, jump or fly, so they are transmitted through direct and indirect contact with an infected person.
Lice and lice eggs are most commonly spread through sharing items such as hats, combs, hair brushes and headphones. When searching for lice, sit in a brightly lit area and use a fine toothed lice comb. Look for lice and lice eggs in the hot spots, such as around the ears, at the crown of the head and at the nape of the neck. They lay their eggs close to the scalp but look along the whole hair shaft. Lice eggs are oval shaped, grayish-white in color and can’t be flicked off.
Studies have shown that lice are building a resistance to some pesticide head lice products. If you do have an infestation, consult your pharmacist to find out which product is best. Generally, an over the counter topical treatment is combined with the manual removal of nits for a two week period. Be sure to inform the pharmacist if you plan to use the product on children. Shampoos or creams containing lindane should never be used on babies, infants and children under fifty pounds.
To prevent a recurrence of the headlice infestation, your home will need a thorough cleaning. Wash all bedding, towels and recently worn clothing in warm water and dry them in a very hot dryer for at least twenty minutes. This should kill any eggs clinging to them. You may choose to replace all your combs and brushes, but they can be cleaned by soaking them in very hot water for a minimum of ten minutes. Thoroughly vacuum your carpeting, furniture and curtains. Items that cannot be vacuumed or washed should be placed in plastic bags and sealed for at least 48 hours.
Not giving headlice the chance to breed is key to halting an infestation. Even after you have undergone treatment for head lice, continue to carefully check for lice and nits. After a week, apply the topical treament again to kill any new lice that may have hatched. Once you have won the battle, be careful not to invite more trouble by sharing hats and hair brushes. Even someone who appears to have clean hair may unknowingly be carrying the nits. it is definitely better to be safe than sorry.