Head lice are those nasty little wingless insects that plague the heads of children everywhere. These disgusting little creatures are exclusive to humans and do not live on animals, contrary to popular belief. They can, however, survive for up to thirty-six hours on cloth seat cushions, in hair brushes, or other places that warm and fuzzy heads touch. Head lice actually need the warmth of the human head to survive.
Head lice must feed every few hours and only feed on human blood. There is a chemical in the saliva of head lice that causes a reaction, like a short stinging sensation, when the host is bitten. The most common symptom of an infestation is an itchy head. The second most common indication is the appearance of nits or eggs near the scalp. In more severe cases the host may actually feel something crawling on their scalp, even if they can’t see it. Constant scratching by the host will cause scabbing on the head. If an infestation goes untreated the host may suffer more severe symptoms such as fever or interrupted sleep patterns. Fever could also indicate an infection that was brought on by the host scratching scabs with dirty hands or finger nails.
Most of the time head lice are treated with over the counter medications and there are many to choose from. Follow the directions of the lice shampoo and only apply it to a fully clothed person. Make sure to wear gloves as these shampoos are very abrasive to the skin. After rinsing you’ll want to use the lice comb that came with the shampoo. It is specifically designed to remove the lice and their eggs when used properly. Wait forty-eight hours before regular shampooing. When a person is being treated for lice all of their clothing, headwear, sheets, and pillowcases, should be washed in hot water. Stuffed animals and similar items should be placed into a clothes dryer on the hottest setting for at least ten minutes or longer. Anything that cannot go into the washer or the clothes dryer should be tightly sealed in a plastic bag for at least two weeks. To successfully rid someone of an infestation, this entire process should be repeated in ten days.
Lice are no fun. Contrary to popular belief, they can only be spread through contact with someone who already has them or contact with their belongings. Head lice are prominent in elementary age children because they are more likely to share belongings like hair brushes or jackets and hats. Lice themselves are not too particular about their hosts; any warm and fuzzy head will suffice. Bearing this in mind, it is never a good idea to share jackets, caps, or anything else that these nasty little critters may hitch a ride on.