Getting rid of pesky unwelcome lodgers
When young children put their heads together over books and play then outbreaks of head lice are likely. Head scratching is a sign, but some people get a ‘tickling’ feeling of something moving in their hair.
There’s no need to be embarrassed – even the cleanest heads get them. But, they are persistent creatures so you need to be persistent to get rid of them.
‘‘Come and talk to us’’, say Self Care pharmacists, ‘‘for advice about treating and controlling head lice. The Head Lice Self Care fact card has a picture so if you are not sure what they look like, ask us for a copy of the card,’’ Self Care pharmacists suggest.
Head lice are small flat insects, about two or three millimetres long, that live on the human scalp and feed on blood. They crawl through and climb up the hair, clutching tightly with their claw-like legs (they do not jump or fly). When children have their heads touching, lice move easily from head to head.
Adult lice move all over the scalp, so to search for them and remove them it is best to wet the hair, apply conditioner, and comb with a finetooth comb. Wipe the comb with a tissue to see whether or not lice are present. Continue to do this until you can find no more insects. Repeat this procedure each day for the next 10-14 days.
The eggs (nits) – which are found stuck firmly to the base of the hair, especially the back of the neck and behind the ears – are difficult to remove by comb and need to be pulled out (or killed by squashing between fingernails so they ‘pop’.
Leaving them means they hatch (within 7-10 days of being laid) and start the cycle again. That is why, each day for 10-14 days you need to repeat the wet combing method – so you get any lice that hatch from eggs you have missed.
The alternative to physically removing lice and eggs is to use a special head lice treatment.
Your Self Care pharmacist can advise you about the different types and suggest one best suited to your child.
‘‘It is important to use these treatments correctly so read, and follow, the instructions carefully’’, advise Self Care pharmacists.
‘‘Treatments need to be repeated in a week’s time because you won’t get all the eggs the first time; you have to get them when they hatch.’’
Using the ‘condition and comb’ method, check the hair for live lice 24 to 48 hours after treatment.
Be sure to follow the product directions and repeat the course as instructed. Do NOT use animal flea or lice treatments on humans!
Parents often ask how to prevent their children from getting head lice. Here are some simple steps: • Brush their hair thoroughly, every day – this can kill or injure lice and prevent them laying eggs. People should have their own brushes and combs, and not share.
• Once a week, check your child’s hair for lice – the sooner you detect lice, the sooner you can treat and prevent them from spreading.
• Tell your child’s teacher if your child gets head lice so other parents can be instructed to check their children, who may be the source of infestation and continue re-infesting others.
For more information about head lice treatment and prevention, talk to your Self Care pharmacist and ask for a copy of the Head Lice Self Care fact card.
Prepared by Pharmacy Self Care, Pharmaceutical Society of NZ Inc.
Lice and their eggs (nits) are visible to the naked eye. Most often it is the nits which are seen, since they are static, round and white and attached to the hair strands close to the scalp.