What causes head lice infestation?
Lice (singular: louse) are tiny insects (known as parasites) that are most commonly found on the head (scalp). Hence, they are also referred to as ‘head lice’. The other sites where lice can be seen are behind the ears and on the back of the neck.
Head lice infestation is medically known as ‘pediculosis capitis.’ It is caused due to the spread of lice from one person to another through ‘head-to-head’ (hair-to-hair) contact. Head lice cannot fly or jump but can crawl at a rapid pace on the scalp. They feed on the blood of the person whom they have infested.
What are the signs and symptoms of a head lice infestation?
- Feeling that something is crawling on the head
- Light brown bugs (head lice) moving swiftly on the scalp
- Yellow, brown, pin-sized lice eggs (nits) glued to the hair
- Red bumps (sores) on the scalp, head, or shoulders
Some children may also have
- Swollen nodes (glands) on the neck
- Pink eye (an eye infection)
It is possible that children may have head lice on the scalp but do not develop any of the signs and symptoms for several weeks.
What is the treatment of head lice infestation?
Getting rid of lice completely is a troublesome process and needs patience.
A head lice infestation will usually take about 4 to 6 weeks to clear up even with treatment.
The doctor will initially advise using over-the-counter (OTC) products that kill lice and some of the nits in the scalp of the child. The instructions written on the bottle or product information leaflet should be read before using the product.
- Permethrin 1% (Nix): This medication is available in the form of lotion, which needs to be applied to the hair for 10 minutes followed by hair wash. It kills only the lice and not the nits. Hence, the application needs to be repeated after 9 to 10 days to kill the hatched eggs before they can produce new eggs.
- Pyrethrin in combination with piperonyl butoxide (A–200, Pronto, R&C, Rid, Triple X)
After applying any of the OTC lotions, it is necessary to comb the hair from the roots to the tips to remove any lice. This should be done once in a day to remove all the dead lice and their eggs.
If OTC medicines have failed to eliminate the lice, the doctor may recommend any of the prescription medicines that include:
- Ivermectin (Sklice)
- Spinosad (Natroba)
All the members of the family need to be treated because they may have been infested with head lice as well. The other general measures to stop the spread within the family/house include:
- Use of the hot water cycle of the washing machine to wash clothes
- Dry cleaning of the clothing that is not washable (coats, hats, scarves, etc.)
- Storing or dry cleaning all clothing (such as comforters), which cannot be washed, and then placing them into a sealed plastic bag and keeping them away for at least 2 weeks
- Soaking combs and brushes for 1 hour in rubbing alcohol or washing it with soap and hot water
- Vacuuming the floor and all the furniture in the house
How can head lice infestation be prevented?
It is difficult to prevent the spread of lice amongst school children because there is so much contact that happens between them. However, here is what can be instructed to the children:
- To keep the garments away from other children's garments (by hanging on a hook)
- To avoid sharing personal items, such as combs and hats
- To not lie on the beds or couches that have been used by other children
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Head Lice Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments Related Articles
Head LiceHead lice infection is called pediculosis. Lice are parasites that feed on blood and can be found on the scalp and hair of infected people. Signs and symptoms of head lice infestation include a tickling sensation, itching, and sores on the head. Head lice may be eliminated with various over-the-counter shampoos and washing all clothing and bed linens in the hot water cycle. Combs and brushes should be disinfected, and the floor and furniture should be vacuumed.
Head Lice PicturePediculus humanus capitis, parasitic insects found on the heads of people. See a picture of Head Lice and learn more about the health topic.
Head Lice SlideshowLearn how to get rid of head lice. Lice attach themselves to the scalp and feed off of human blood. Discover head lice symptoms and learn what head lice look like for effective head lice treatment.
Head Lice vs. DandruffDandruff is a condition that causes dry flakes on the scalp. Lice are parasites. Head lice infestations are very contagious. Both head lice and dandruff have similar signs and symptoms: scalp itching and tiny white material on the hair shafts. Lice treatment involves the application of over-the-counter shampoos that contain permethrin or pyrethrin followed by nit and louse removal with a fine-toothed comb. Dandruff treatment incorporates the use of anti-dandruff shampoo.
Head Lice: Where Do They Come From?Head lice are tiny wingless insects that may be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. They feed on human blood many times a day and live close to the human scalp. Head lice infestation can affect anyone; however, it is more commonly seen in children.
How Do You Get Rid of Lice Fast?Learn what medical treatments can help with lice and speed up your lice recovery.