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Headlice - Can Leave you Scratching Your Head

10 Jan 2007 7:22 AM -

Having children with recurrent head lice can be frustrating for parents and can, quite literally, have parents scratching their own heads as to how to rid themselves and their children of the problem. Head lice are tiny insects that live on the human scalp and lay their eggs on hair shafts near the scalp. They are very common is school age children and very easy to catch. The head louse feed on human blood and need the warmth of a human scalp to live. They cannot live for long away from the human head. Head lice are harmless and they do not spread diseases in Australia. However, itching from their bite can very irritating and the skin can become infected from scratching.

Head lice are spread mainly spread through close head-to-head touching, but may also be spread through sharing of brushes and hats. They are not likely to be spread through bedding, furniture or carpets, as they cannot live or lay eggs away from a warm human scalp. Human head lice can feed only on human blood, and cannot live for more than a few hours on animals. So there is no risk of pets and children infecting each other. They cannot spread diseases such as HIV, Hep B or Hep C.

If you think you or your child may have head lice, look very carefully at the scalp and hair. Look for live eggs (‘nits') and lice, especially around the ears, back of the neck and under fringes. Sometimes you can see tiny black spots of black (lice droppings) on pillows or collars.

Usual treatments involve a combination of wet-combing to remove lice and nits, combined with a chemical treatment. There are several different types of chemicals, and should always be used exactly as directed. These treatments are available as lotions, foams or shampoos. Treatments for head lice include maldison, pyrethrins and permethrin. Always repeat treatments again 7-10 days after the first treatment to kill any lice that hatched after initial treatment. Other family members should be checked thoroughly for lice, and adults can have head lice and not know it, thus continually re-infecting their children.

Treatment failures can be caused by not using the treatment exactly as directed, not repeating treatments 7-10 days after the first treatment, catching head lice again from somebody else and sometimes the development of resistance in the lice to chemicals used. All family members should be thoroughly checked. Change treatments if necessary. Treat all hair brushes and combs with chemical or boiling water. Hot washing and hot tumble drying of bedding , towels, clothes and toys is effective. Other treatments available include washing the hair with conditioner and hot blow-drying of the hair. Many ‘natural' products contain exactly the same chemicals as branded treatments (e.g. pyrethrins). Shaving the head and cutting long hair is not necessary.

Source: http://www.cyh.com/