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"Hairy"  Parasites :   head Louse - head lice

Head lice: Cause, symptoms, backgrounds and treatments.

Head louse (Video)

Nowadays it is still a very common thing to have an infection with head lice/ louse. Head lice can NEVER carry or spread any diseases. Having lice is NOT an indicator of poor hygiene or low social status. Head lice are equally likely to be found on clean or dirty hair.

Head lice develop in three forms: Nits (lice eggs), nymphs (immature adult head lice) and adults. Nits take about a week to hatch. Nymphs mature into adults about seven days after hatching. Adults lice can live up to 30 days on a person's head. If a lice falls of a person it it dies within two days.

Detecting head lice and symptoms

Bites from head lice (see photo left) cause intensive itching (the body's allergic reaction to the bite) and irritation on the scalp, small red bumps on the scalp, neck and shoulders. Bumps may become crusty and ooze.

To check if you have head lice you will have to bug a bug busting comb from the pharmacy to check for lice and nits (eggs). Then lean over a sheet of paper and comb the hair in small sections from the roots to the ends of the hair for at least eight days. It is very important to clean any lice or debris from the comb following each combing or to collect nits and hair that are removed. Both live lice and empty egg shells may drop onto the paper. Head lice does not lead to medical problems. A short haircut will make it easier to wash and to get rid of louse and nits. There is no need to cut off long hair before starting treatment.

Head lice infect hair on the head and they are easiest to see on the neck and over the ears. Tiny eggs are often mistaken for dandruff. Head lice can survive on clothing, carpets or bedding for up to 10 days. Their eggs can live for more than 2 weeks. The size of a louse is about 2.5 millimeters.

Head lice moves down to the scalp to suck blood. Head lice must feed every six hours or they will die. Head lice are usually small 6-legged insects lwhich can vary in colour from grey to brown. With their two large front legs they grab onto the hair shaft.

Children & head lice/ louse

Especially among children ages 3-10 is a very common condition because of their close contact with each other at school. It is not a matter of poor hygiene. If you check any live lice on the child's head then do check every member of the family.

An individual family may be in control of head lice at home, but the child can be reinfested when she comes in touch with an "untreated" child. Also you should get in touch with the school and playmates to report the fact that your child is having head lice to prevent further spreading or reinfesting.

If your child is under two years of age it is best to get in touch with your pediatrician for advice. Most pyrethrum shampoos are generally not recommended for children under the age of two.

Research shows that girls get head lice more often than boys and women more often than men. Not because they might have longer hair, but while girls or women are more likely to to put their heads together when they are playing or working.


If your child is scratching his/her head or if the school or day-care has reported a louse a infestation, look for signs of head lice.

Routinely examine your child's head on a weekly/ monthly basis.

Head lice are normally spread by close contact, but can also be spread by sharing clothes such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms or hair ribbons.

Be careful sharing infested combs, brushes or towels.

Clothing and bedding will also need to be washed on a daily basis during the entire treatment.

Frequently cleaning of carpets and all other surfaces in child-care centers prevents spread of all types of infections including head lice.

Household tips

To kill lice and nits, machine wash (hot water) washable clothing and bed linens that the infested person wore or used during the 2 days before treatment. Store all clothing stuffed animals that cannot be washed or dry cleaned into a sealed plastic bag for 2 weeks and repeat after eight days. Dry clean clothing that is not washable (like coats, hats and scarves).