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Is Itchiness Really a Symptom of Head Lice?

21 January

One of the most common myths about head lice symptoms is that your scalp and head will be itchy. In fact, very few people who have head lice also experience itching as a symptom.

The truth is that is takes 2 to 3 months of an active head lice infestation before there is even a chance of itching. Why is that?

Because when lice feed on the human scalp, they leave behind a combination of saliva, anesthetic, and anticoagulant when they take a blood meal. And these substances do not initially cause an allergic reaction in humans. However, after an extended period of time, and 50,000 – 100,000 head louse bites, a small percentage of people will develop an itchy scalp and/or an allergic rash on the back of the neck from the bites.

So What Causes Itching?

There are many reasons your scalp can itch and most of them have nothing to do with head lice symptoms. Your scalp can actually itch because it is sweaty, hot, dry, or even because you tried a new hair product.

In fact, it is beneficial to the lice for your head to not itch?  Why?

Well, because lice want to find a nice colony on a new hosts scalp…and they don’t want that host to know so they can continue to thrive. So, the reason your head will not begin to itch right away is because the lice do not want you to have any symptoms until they have really set up camp. After 2 or 3 months, once the lice have set up a successful colony and produced multiple generations of baby lice, that is when symptoms of itching show up. By that time the offspring have grown up and spread to other host, perpetuating the infection.

What If I Am Itchy?

The truth is that most of the itching associated with head lice is due to an unhappy scalp that has had pesticide lice shampoo applied to it. Just like with a mosquito bite, itching can last up to 2 weeks after the treatment. It still takes time for the histamine reaction of the lice feeding on scalp skin to settle down. So, even after you have had treatment and dealt with the problem, the itching really does not have to do with the actual head lice. It is just associated irritation.

So, if you are feeling itchy be sure to consider other possibilities before assuming you have head lice. If you are sure you have lice, give NitWits a call today at 617-816-9487 for treatment.

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