Head lice are a tiny wingless parasite that only affect humans. They do not carry diseases nor are they dangerous but they can be annoying and very irritable, especially for children. Head lice lay eggs in the scalp and feed on the blood! You cannot get them from an animal. They pass from human to human by crawling onto the head of another person due to close contact i.e touching heads.
Children are most likely to have head lice infestations because of their relative close proximity to one another in schools and the playground. They are not a cause for embarrassment nor are they a cause of unhygienic environments, but because of their highly contagious nature they simply thrive in busy close human to human places, like kids parties, sport activities and camps.
Kids may complain things are moving around on their head or red bumps might appear from scratching the scalp. Sometimes, with persistent scratching, red bumps will become sores and are at risk of bacterial infection if left untreated.
Your GP or chemist can provide you with special medicated shampoos or over-the-counter prescription medications. Creams and shampoos usually kill the lice but this may take up to a week because of the eggs hatching and causing re-infestations so it is highly recommended that you repeat treatment 7-10 days after the first treatment.
If you do not want to use medicated creams on your child’s scalp (do not use shampoos under two years old) you can completely rid lice by hand using a fine-tooth comb. By wetting the child’s wet and conditioned hair (temporarily immobilises the lice), you can comb out all lice and eggs. Do this every few days for up to two weeks to make sure all eggs and lice have been removed.
It is hard to prevent head lice completely. Lice cannot live more than approximately 24 hours on bed linen, stuffed animals, hats, hair-ties, brushes etc. However, if you have had a recent infestation and to prevent it happening again, it is best to wash all bed linen and clothing, stuffed animals, soak hair accessories etc of the child in a very hot wash/water. Speak to your Pharmacist or GP if you are using medicated products to prevent or treat head lice.