Head Lice Education

Everyone is susceptible to head lice; no one is immune or excluded.  Lice do not prefer dirty hair; nor, do they prefer a specific culture, race, climate, or socioeconomic level.  They live in every country of the world and have done so for a long time. In the book of Exodus in the Bible; the third plaque in Egypt was lice.

HEAD LICE:    

Louse

Pediculus capitis:  Six legged bloodsucking insect that does NOT fly and does NOT jump.  Head Lice that live on people’s heads do NOT live on your dog, cat, or other animals.  Animals have different types of lice. Pediculus capitis (Head Lice)  live on your head where it can feed and reproduce.  Each of it’s six legs has a claw which it clamps onto the hair shaft allowing it to travel up and down the shaft either mating with a female or laying eggs. The adult louse is the size of a sesame seed and will camouflage itself; females tend to be slightly larger than males. You get head lice through hair to hair contact with someone who has lice in their hair.  The louse crosses over from one head to another.  If an adult male and female; or female who has already mated “cross-over” you will likely acquire an active case of head lice which must be treated.  They do not usually go away on their own.

LIFE CYCLE OF A LOUSE:

lifecyclelice

A Female louse only needs to mate one time in order to lay about 140 eggs (nits) in her life-cycle of 30 days.  24 hours after mating the female begins to lay her eggs twice a day. The eggs are laid onto the shaft of hair encapsulated in a sticky glue.  Sometimes the eggs are laid close to the scalp but not always when the top of the head is too hot for the eggs to hatch…momma louse…lays them further down the hair shaft.  In 7 – 10 days, the viable nit will hatch into its first nymphal stage; needing to feed within two hours or die from dehydration.  In 3 to 4 days the nymph will shed it’s exoskeleton revealing it’s stage II nymph body and again in it’s final stage III nymphal molt where it is now a sexually mature adult louse.  All of this growth has just transpired in about 7 – 10 days after the initial nit hatched.  At this time the louse must take a blood meal before it can copulate.  The female will lay her first eggs within 24 hours of her last nymphal molt.

NIT:

Nit left on Hair Strand after Nymph emerged.

The egg laid by a female louse onto the hair shaft in a sticky glue-like substance.  It is the size of the tip of a pencil, or 0.8mm in size or about the size of this period.  The nit is glued onto the hair shaft at an angle as seen in the highly magnified photo above.  Because the nit is glued onto the hair shaft they do not fall off.  Nits must be combed out of the hair with a good metal comb that has grooved tines. Any product that claims to remove nits without combing would dissolve the hair shaft at the same time.  Nits must be manually removed with combing; treatment products help to make combing them out easier. Hair muffs, dandruff, and dry skin cells may be confused with nits at first.  If it flakes out of the hair it is not a nit.  If the speck is stuck to the hair shaft it is probably a nit.  Continue down this page to Signs and Symptoms  to see how to check more thoroughly.

PEDICULOSIS:

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The infestation of humans by adult head lice, nymphs, and nits.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PEDICULOSIS:

Often there is no itching with a case of head lice.  Severe itching may indicate an infestation that has been present for several weeks.  Some people never itch even after prolonged exposure to lice and are considered “carriers”.  Some people’s scalp does itch, or they have a rash near their ears, nape of neck, crown of head, or forehead.  Most common however is the sighting of “A Bug” when a mom combs their young daughters hair.  Sometimes infestation will go unnoticed for longer periods of time because mom is not coming their child’s hair because they can do it themselves. Another indicator of an infestation is being tired for what appears to be an unknown reason.  Lice are active at night and can produce an uncomfortably sensation when they move; leaving the host uncomfortable and restless during the night yet not waking them fully.  Lice may cause low-grade fevers when secondary infections occur and swollen lymph glands.

The only way to know if you do have a case of head lice is to do a thorough head-check.  This can be done initially by examining these “hot spot areas” using a rat-tail comb and lifting up small sections of hair (both front and backs) to look for evidence of nits, bugs, and nymphs.

If at first you do not detect anything, it is important to keep looking particularly if exposure is known. This process may take from 15 – 30 minutes to ensure you have thoroughly checked for the tiniest nit.  Small bugs can easily escape detection particularly when they are in their first stages, but searching for nits will affirm that an adult female has been in the hair at minimum.

OKAY I FOUND A BUG OR A NIT:        

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Don’t panic. A few simple decisions need to be made:

First – Decide if you will treat the case yourself or have someone else do it.  See the section on our site entitled Cost Comparison.

Second – Take Action on your Plan of  Treatment and Removal

Call our Treatment Center for an Appointment (540) 632-1093 and we will complete a head check on all of your immediate family memebers; only treating those who need it.

Do Head Checks on your entire family if you are planning to treat at home.  Treat family members only if lice or nits are found. Don’t treat unless you find evidence; it only builds up resistant strains of lice if bugs cross over from your head to someone elses.

Call EVERYONE you have had contact with in the last month to let them know you have found head lice in your family and help them with what to do next…you can give them this website to begin with.

Don’t blame others for acquiring head lice.  No one willing gives these little creatures away.  If you have them it is probable that you are sharing them with others too. There should not be any shame in having head lice they love anyone who has blood in their veins!

Call your daycare director or School Nurse to let them know.  Be wise, you can help stop the spread of lice by doing so.

Third – Do NOT throw out all combs, brushes, hats, toys, burn the bedding and pillows, nor tear your house apart cleaning. You don’t have to give the dog or cat away either.

You can soak combs and brushes in soapy boiling water for 15 minutes and rinse.

Change bedding or wash in hot water and dry on high heat for 30 minutes.

Put Pillows aside for 24-48 hours OR place in hot dryer for 30 minutes.

Wash clothing  worn in the last 24-48 hours in hot soapy water and put in dryer OR throw them into laundry basket to wash later.

Put plush toys, hats, and helmets away for 24-48 hours…lice generaly can not live off the head for any longer than 24 hours.

Vacuum furniture, carpeting; car upholstery that the infected head has sat or lain upon in the last 24-48 hours  OR simply put a sheet over the top of them for 24-48 hours.

Cats and Dogs do not get; nor, do they pass on Human Head Lice.

Fourth – Be proactive in preventing re-infestation of head lice in your family and in your community.

For the first 90 days (approximately) after you have gotten rid of head lice, a detectable odor remains in the body which attracts other lice. You should use a  shampoo and conditioner that lice do not like the smell of every couple of days and spritz hair daily with a  mint spray to repel lice. We have products on hand if you desire to purchase them from us.  Pull your hair back because lice are transmitted by crawling from one head to another. The use of a good metal comb like the Terminator should be used a couple of times per week to check for bugs and nits.

If you have been treated at our Treatment Center, please come to your Follow-Up Appointments…the first one is free of charge and can help you determine if you are still being exposed to someone who has an active case of lice.  Stopping the transmission is very important.

If exposed to lice again or you’ve gotten the dreaded school or daycare letter; take the lice comb and use it every couple of days and use a lice repelling shampoo, conditioner, and mint spray. We offer them at a great price in our studio.

Be an advocate.  Now that you have had your experiences with lice and the treatment process; help others become knowledgeable about Lice Facts and dispel the myths that seem to continue to circulate. Help others become lice free without shame and guilt.

SOME COMMON MYTHS ASSOCIATED WITH LICE:

They jump or fly onto you….nope, they’re wingless and don’t have hind legs.  They are primarily contracted by head-to-head contact.

Taking “Selfies” Increases your chance of getting Lice.  Not proven to be true.  Your head does not come in contact long enough for a ‘cross-over’ bug to make it’s way onto your hair.

African Americans can’t get head lice…not true.  While they have oval shaped hair which makes it harder for lice to hold onto, they are not immune.  Anyone can get head lice.

Hairspray will prevent head lice…wrong again.  Dirty or sticky hair does not prevent head lice.

Lice only lay their eggs close to the scalp…Incorrect.  Eggs may be laid anywhere on the shaft of hair depending on climate.  Eggs require a consistent warm temperature and a louse is able to sense and lay eggs at the optimum spot to achieve the correct temperature control so their eggs will incubate.

I should treat everyone in my family with a lice product to prevent it.  Really wrong information!  Some products are toxic and overuse is extremely dangerous to your health, particularly children.  Only treat someone who is known to have lice.  Treating someone to “prevent lice” only builds resistant bugs much like our overuse of antibiotics has done.  Educate yourself on how to reduce your exposure and chance of getting lice and treat only those with nits or bugs. Non-Toxic Repelling products are different than Treatment products. Products that repel lice are generally considered safe and mild if used as directed and repel these insects.  Treatment products are much stronger and meant to do a different job.

Appointments and Information (540) 632-1093

Serving:  Roanoke: Blue Ridge; Bedford; Lynchburg and Surrounding Communities in Virginia