Each year, children all over Texas return to school after summer vacation. Unfortunately, some uninvited guests have also gone along for the ride.
According to the CDC, each year an estimated 6 to 12 million children between the ages of 3 and 11 will become infested with lice. Although these parasitic pests are most common in preschool and young children, older children and adults are still susceptible. Head lice, or Pediculus humanus capitas, live on the scalp and feed on human blood several times a day.
Head lice do not jump or fly; they crawl. For this reason, head-to-head contact with someone who has head lice is the most common way lice are transmitted. Sharing hairbrushes, combs, hair ties and hats with those infected can also lead to transfer. Personal hygiene has nothing at all to do with getting lice. In fact, head lice prefer clean, product-free hair.
The Life of a Louse
Head lice have three forms: nits (or eggs), nymphs and adults. Nits are found at the base of the hair shaft. They’re often mistaken for dandruff, but they don’t move when flicked with a finger as dandruff does. Nits take about 8 or 9 days to hatch and become nymphs. Nymphs are immature lice that survive by feeding off the blood of a human. Nits mature into adult lice in 9 to 12 days.
Adult lice have tiny claws that help them hold on to human hair and this makes it difficult to remove them. They can survive on a person’s head for about a month. Adult lice can live for up to 2 days after falling off the head. This is why it’s important to launder bedding, clothing, stuffed animals and other personal items belonging to an infected person. Large items can be bagged in plastic for 2 weeks or more.
Head Lice Removal
There are many schools of thought when it comes to getting rid of head lice. Many lice-killing products contain harmful chemicals that some feel aren’t suitable or safe for small children, pregnant woman and some others. Most of these over-the-counter medications don’t kill nits. It’s extremely important to comb through the hair with a very fine metal comb (often included in lice removal kits). This takes a great deal of time and patience. Leaving one or two eggs behind runs the risk of re-infection.
Texas Lice Squad to the Rescue
Many people feel overwhelmed when it comes to lice removal. Fortunately, the stigma once associated with head lice isn’t quite as prevalent as it once was. Many hair salons are now offering lice removal to customers. One North Dallas company, The Texas Lice Squad, is owned and operated by registered nurse, Penny Warner. Ms. Warner says that, although lice aren’t seasonal, there’s a definite increase after summer vacation. Her company is dedicated to educating and helping families in the Dallas area and offers trainings to local schools. Penny says, “One of my biggest goals is to provide parents (and schools) with the correct information regarding head lice. There is so much misinformation out there and people just don’t know where to turn. Once they have the right information in their hands, it is much easier and less stressful for them.”
For More Information
The most important thing to do is not panic. If you notice your child scratching his or her head more than usual, part the hair in the back of the head. Lice generally stay behind the ears, the back of the head and the nape of the neck. Head lice can be resistant and most experts advise giving two treatments of a lice removal shampoo. There are also several home remedies that many parents swear by. The CDC has a great deal of information and photos on their website.