How to Handle a Head Lice Infestation

When your child is scratching his head, how do you know if you are dealing with a head lice infestation? First you will look for symptoms, then you will try to detect live lice and take the proper steps to handle the infestation correctly Head Lice Infestation.

When can we talk of an infestation?

In a normal and healthy child, we can talk of a head lice infestation if there are fewer than ten live adult lice on his head. The presence of nits is indicative of a past infestation, which
may or may not still be active.

Head lice are spread mainly by direct contact from head to head. When you catch lice most of the time you only catch a louse or two, and if you can treat the hair at this point then you will most probably avoid a bigger infestation.

What are the symptoms of an infestation?

Head Lice Infestation - Infestations can be asymptomatic, which means there are not always symptoms such as itching associated with the presence of head lice. Itching may occur if the infested person becomes sensitive to antigenic components of saliva that lice inject while feeding on the scalp.

This is not always the case, and this is why itching symptoms sometimes only appear after several weeks, typically four to six weeks. In such a case, the person will be severely infested, as the louse reproduces very quickly, and can actually reproduce a lot in several weeks' time.

Some individuals may also never feel any itching. This is why you should always check for lice, because in neglected cases lice infestations can induce severe secondary infections of the scalp. But unlike body lice, head lice do not transmit other diseases.

How can you detect head lice?

The first thing you can do is examine the person's head under strong natural lighting. Head lice can be difficult to detect because they are very small and move quickly. In fact, lice do not jump and do not fly, but they crawl fast (23 centimeters per minute under natural conditions). Separate the hair and carefully examine the scalp Head Lice Infestation, especially the neck and behind the ears.

Since head lice move quickly, their detection requires both expertise and experience. A study conducted in Israel with experienced scientists showed that a head lice comb is four times more effective and twice as fast as direct visual examination to detect live head lice and, therefore, to diagnose infestation. In this study, direct visual examination alone resulted in an underestimation of the active infestation.

You should also look for eggs, also called nits. The new eggs are almost transparent. It is useful to examine the head from different angles or under different lighting conditions. To detect the presence of eggs, try to find small white or yellowish brown particles, the size of a poppy seed. You may also see some adult lice move quickly away from the light. To determine if you are seeing eggs or dandruff, try to pull them out. If you can not remove them easily, then you are most probably dealing with nits.

What should you do when confronted to an infestation?

Head Lice Infestation - At the first sign of infestation, it is necessary to treat in order to prevent the spread of lice to other school children and family members. When a child has head lice, all the other children but also adults in the family must be examined.

To prevent propagation, do not borrow items such as combs, headbands, caps, hats, head-phones or other personal items. All clothes, caps, scarves, towels and bedding should be washed with hot water and dried at high temperature in the dryer for at least 20 minutes.

Dry cleaning should be enough in the case of jackets and other non-washable items. Combs and brushes should also be washed in water with vinegar.