Ok, so today I’m going off on a bit of a rant. I usually don’t vent over the internet (because so many of you do it much better than moi) but seriously, this is starting to bug me. So prepare yourself for a longish post. I don’t expect you to read it all but if you have kids in elementary school I suggest you at least skim it, read the summary at the bottom and look at the pretty pictures at the end. The rest of you can read on a diagonal like you ALWAYS do. You know who you are… :P
If you’ve got kids in preschool or elementary, chances are you’ve had to deal with head lice. Second week of elementary school and I’ve already had to treat my daughter for the little buggers. So why am I bringing this up? Because I hear people say the dumbest things when it comes to head lice. It’s important to know the difference because you don’t treat a flea infestation the same way you treat head lice. DUH!!
First, if your child gets head lice, it doesn’t automatically mean you lack proper hygiene or are generally dirty. Head lice couldn't care less about cleanliness. They are there to suck your blood and reproduce, period. Head lice also don’t care if your skin color is yellow, black, white, green, beige, pink or any other color. And surprise, it doesn't care if you’re rich, poor or have a 401K plan either. As long as you are a warm, living, breathing person with hair on your head (Mark, if you didn't have kids, I'd tell you to stop reading now) then head lice will love you. The only people head lice do not care much for are zombies. So parents, do me a favour and QUIT FEELING EMBARRASSED IF YOUR CHILDREN
GET HEAD LICE! Plus, you're making your child feel embarrassed and uneasy
about a situation they cannot control.
Still with me? Great, here’s a brownie.
RECOGNITION: Adult head lice (Pediculus humanus capitatus DeGeer) are tiny, about this à -- ß long (~ 2.4 - 3.7mm) They are also wingless (yes that means they CAN’T fly). They are also, watch out big word coming up, dorsoventrally flattened (flat like a pancake or a flounder (dorso = back, ventral = stomach)).
And yes it’s important to know how they are built because it will help you distinguish head lice from fleas which are flattened vertically. And proper identification of blood sucking insects makes you look like less of a tool around people who can’t distinguish a roach from a stink bug.
Ok, back to head lice.
These insects vary in color depending on how much they had for breakfast or if they’ve just molted. They can go from a dark brown or black to a greyish/murky yellow color. They have six legs with large claws for grasping around hairs (this means they do NOT jump) and will stick their eggs (nits) to individual hairs on your head, usually near the scalp (this means they do NOT lay their eggs in clothing, on pillow cases or in the bed). Only fleas leave the host to lay their little camouflaged eggs in strategic locations.
Do I have to explain where pubic lice lay their eggs? No? Great. Let’s move on.
Geez, I’m an ex entomologist and all this talk about head lice is even making me scratch my head!
BIOLOGY: If you've made it this far, you get a free t-shirt and a hug. Ha, just kidding and keep reading!
Head lice live CONTINUOUSLY ON THE
HOST and for all practical purposes occur on the
head unless they are dislodged by scratching, or towel drying or by exchanging hats, combs,
brushes, etc. Also, they cannot survive for very long if they cannot feed, so there's really no need to freak out and sterilize the whole house. But, changing the bedding and
washing your child’s favorite stuffed animal and hat/scarf won’t hurt. Besides, they
probably need washing anyway. Now, if we were talking about fleas, then we’d
have to do some serious cleaning...preferably, with a blow torch. :P
Anyway, female lice lay approximately 50-100 pearly white nits that are about this à - ß long (0.8mm). That is pretty fricking tiny but it can be seen by the naked eye. And once you’ve spotted them once or twice, they get easier to find. (HINT: If you suspect head lice, the first place to check are the hairs close to the back of the neck, near the scalp). It takes 5 – 10 days for the eggs to hatch and they go through 3 nymphal instars. All that really means is it takes about 3 weeks to complete a life cycle from egg to egg.
TREATMENT: The most common treatment is the use of a shampoo called a pediculicide and comb out the adults and nits (btw, pediculicide is just a fancy word that means something that kills lice, which is convenient for companies that don’t want to use the evil INSECTICIDE word when referring to a product that’s applied to your child’s head). In any event, you should talk to your doctor first and take into consideration allergies your child may have. But you should be aware that there is no treatment that is 100% safe and effective on 100% of the patients. Read, understand, and please, please, FOLLOW the label. If the product says retreat in 10 days, then DO IT. The increase in resistance is largely due to people not following simple directions. God please don’t get me started on resistance……this post is long enough……
Anyway, the safest way to get rid of head lice is by properly and regularly using a nit comb. But I know that can be time consuming especially if your child has long, thick, and/or curly hair. The choice is yours. As far as oils such as lavender or tea tree oil … I've never found them to be very effective as a deterrent…but that’s my experience and it still may work for you.
FUN FACTS!) are you still scratching
- DO NOT FEEL EMBARRASSED IF YOUR CHILD GETS HEAD LICE
- Head lice do not discriminate and getting them doesn’t mean you are dirty or poor
- For all practical purposes, head lice remain on the host unless dislodged
- Head lice do not jump or fly or swim or play air guitar
- Nits (eggs) are cemented to individual hairs
- Safest way to remove head lice is with a nit comb
- Head lice have flattened bodies like a pancake (unlike fleas that look like they got squashed in an elevator (vertically))
- Call your doctor for treatment options
- FOLLOW the directions on the product label for treatments
- Wash bedding and hats/scarves, clean hair brushes and combs etc.
- And Elliot Grace over at So close, but... added this excellent piece of advice: "The most important rule I've learned...Do Not Panic! Stress can, and will most likely lead to an impatient clean up, promoting a second batch of hatchlings, and another mess."
|Adult head lice|
THE MORE YOU KNOW...