Very often, children get infected with head lice. These are the tiny insects that thrive on the scalp and suck blood. Head lice lay eggs on scalp, which increases their numbers significantly in few days.
Though these insects do not spread any type of disease, they cause great discomfort to children. In some cases, children are even not able to concentrate on studies. Thus, it is very necessary that head lice is checked and treated. It should be known that treating head lice at earlier stage is easy.
How to Check and Treat Children for Head Lice
Three stages of head lice found in children are egg, nymph and adult. Eggs of head lice are also called as nits. These are oval in shape and yellow or whitish-grey in color. Size of nits is almost equal to the size of sand grain. Nits stick to hair shaft near scalp and look like dandruff. Time period required for hatching of nits is seven to ten days. Nymphs are basically baby lice that are smaller than adults but look similar to them.
Adult head lice are normally up to the size of sesame seed. These are not seen easily. They can live on scalp up to 30 days. After being removed from the scalp, they die within three days. Head of the child should be regularly checked for nits, as they are easily visible and non-movable. Locating an adult on scalp is a difficult task. It has been found that parents start searching for head lice when their ward starts itching. This is not the right practice.
If a child is not scratching or itching, it does not mean that head lice are not present on the scalp. About 30-40% of head lice infections do not cause any symptoms. Thus, it is not necessary that itching would definitely occur after infection. For seeing nits, strong light is necessary. Newly laid eggs of head lice are found one to two centimeters away from scalp while older eggs are found higher up the shaft.
Since nits look like dandruff, it may not be easy for a person to differentiate between the two. Best way of doing that is to slide a nit up on the hair shaft with fingers. Nits are difficult to move, as they are tightly stuck to hair shafts. On the other hand, dandruff or muffs are easy to move. One of easiest and surest ways for diagnosing head lice infection on the scalp of child is to use a conditioner and a nit comb. First of all, conditioner is applied thoroughly to dry hairs and scalp of child. Each hair strand should get covered from tip to root.
Using ordinary comb, hairs are detangled and straightened. Hairs are then combed immediately with a fine tooth comb or a nit comb. Nit combs are easily available in market and have very closely spaced teeth. Conditioner is wiped off the hairs with this comb on to a tissue paper. It is then searched for head lice as well as nits. Each part of head should be combed for at least five times. If nits or adults are found, it means child has head lice infection.
Treatment of head lice should be started immediately for preventing symptoms or infection to get worsened. There are many types of treatments available for head lice. For example, conditioner and nit comb technique can be repeated for three to four days continuously for removing all the eggs. When paper tissue does not contain egg, it means they have been completely removed from the hairs. However, this treatment should be done when only eggs are found and when no prior treatment of head lice has been given.
If child has been treated for head lice and if hatched eggs only are found in nit comb technique, child may not be treated, as these eggs can be from previous infection. There are many types of formulations available in market, which are used for treating head lice. These formulations are applied to hairs as well as scalp, as head lice live in hair and for sucking the blood, they come down to scalp. Complete treatment of head lice consists of two repititions. These are done at a gap of seven days.
First treatment is done for killing the moving head lice or the climbers whereas second treatment is done for killing the juvenile lice that hatch from the eggs. Insecticides are the commonest formulations used for treating head lice. Three insecticides that are generally applied are Pyrethrin, Permethrin and Lindane. Many brands of these insecticides are available in the market in the form of shampoos, lotions, creams and conditioners. Among these insecticides, first two are considered as completely safe while Lindane has been classified as a toxic substance for humans.
Thus, this insecticide must not be used on children that are younger than 2 years. While applying any type of insecticide, instructions should be carefully followed. Shampoo should not be left over scalp and hairs for duration longer than prescribed. After application, hairs are rinsed with cool water. This should be done in a sink so that other parts of body do not come in contact with the insecticide. While rinsing hairs, eyes of child should remain closed. In some cases, application of insecticide may lead to itching or a burning feeling on scalp. This does not mean that head lice are there on scalp.
One of most effective chemical formulations for treating head lice is isopropyl myristate or cyclomethicone. It is a non-steroidal formulation and should be used on children over 4 years of age. This chemical breaks down the exoskeleton of lice and as a result, they become dehydrated and die. This formulation is applied to dry scalp and is rinsed with cool water after 10minutes. Like other insecticide, this formulation is also repeated after 7 days.
There are some other treatments also that are effective on head lice. For example, olive oil, petroleum jelly, mayonnaise and margarine have been found useful in treating head lice. These products make breathing very difficult for head lice and they may die in two or three applications. In no case, kerosene or gasoline should be used for treating head lice, as these products are very dangerous.
Photo Credit: Countrychild.co.uk