Lice is a species of parasites which survives exclusively on the heads or scalps of human beings and feeds on human blood. They are ectoparasites, which means they live only on the external body and cannot survive inside the human body. Head lice cannot infect any other species apart from humans, however, a closely related parasitic louse species is known to survive on chimpanzees.
How Do We Get Head Lice?
Head lice are more commonly seen in children. They cannot fly; instead they only crawl so most infestations occur when there is direct contact between one infested head and a non-infested one. Lice can spread through using other’s combs or towels or sleeping in close proximity to an individual who already has them.
What are the Symptoms of a Head Lice Infestation?
When an infestation occurs on the scalp, there are several signs given by our bodies to help us identify the situation and be prepared to get rid of head lice. Since most of us get this infestation only once or twice in our whole lives, it might become difficult to differentiate lice from any other insect when found on clothing items, towels, or bed linen. They usually get detected when the infestation goes out of hand. However, some people who are more prone to this problem or get it often may become used to these indications. Common symptoms of a lice infestation are:
1. Overall Itchy and Irritated Scalp
Head lice survive on human blood. An itchy and irritated scalp can be due to the allergic reaction which occurs when a louse bites into the scalp in order to draw blood for its nourishment. Constant itching can make one extremely uncomfortable.
2. Increased Lice Visibility
Head lice are tiny black or brown elongated insects which lack wings and have several legs. If you find such insects on your scalp, you may be suffering from an infestation. However, this is an extremely unlikely event as these creatures are extremely good at hiding themselves when in their natural habitat. Stray lice can be found on towels, combs, or pillowcases if one has a lice infestation.
3. Lice Eggs or Nits on Hair Strands
Lice eggs, also called nits, are tiny silvery white elongated objects which cling strongly to strands of hair. These elongated objects make a feeble pop when broken and can be easily distinguished from flakes of dandruff.
4. Itchy Red Bumps on Scalp, Shoulders, Ears, or Neck
Painful and itchy tiny red bumps on the scalp, ears, neck and/ or shoulders can be a sign of a lice infestation. These bumps do not heal easily and feel like tiny hard lumps upon running your fingers through your hair. Itching specifically above the ears or near the neck is a very common symptom of the infestation.
5. Difficulty Sleeping at Night
A common symptom of this infestation is inability to get a good night’s sleep despite being tired or leading an active and healthy life. This is because lice become most active at night and cause irritation on the scalp.
What are Some Effective Lice Treatments?
Some remedies to get rid of head lice are the following:
1. Fine-Toothed Comb
A fine-toothed comb can help eliminate lice and nits from the hair strand upon combing thoroughly. It works efficiently on shorter hair.
2. Over the Counter Lice Shampoo
Over the counter head lice shampoos have to be applied consecutively for 4 weeks (once per week) followed by combing with a fine-toothed comb for effective removal of lice and nits. The instructions on the back of the pack must be followed carefully.
3. Head Lice Hair Oil
Hair oils for removing head lice usually have to be applied overnight followed by washing with an anti-lice shampoo the next morning.
4. Home Remedies
Home remedies like combining olive oil and camphor can be great for getting rid of this problem.
Common Myths Associated with Lice and Nits
- Head Lice is a Sign of Poor Personal Hygiene: Even a clean scalp can get lice.
- Lice is a Sign of an Unclean Environment: Lice is spread from another individual and not from the environment. Lice cannot survive for more than 24 hours away from the human body.
- Human Lice is Spread Through Pets Such as Cats and Dogs: Human head lice cannot infect dogs or cats and vice versa. Lice are species specific parasites.
- Head Lice Treatment Kills Lice Eggs: The protective layer of lice eggs keeps them from getting affected by lice remedies.
- Head Lice Cannot Infest a Scalp with Dandruff: A flaky scalp can also suffer from a lice infestation.
- Lice can Fly: Head lice do not have wings. They can only crawl or jump at the most.
- Some Scalps can Never Get Infested by Lice: No scalp can be completely immune to head lice.
Head lice spread through direct contact with an infected head or through using an infected person’s towel, comb, or pillow. Lice infestation can be treated with fine-toothed combs, over the counter shampoos, oils, or home remedies such as camphor mixed with coconut oil.