Head Lice Treatment and Prevention
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NitWits on Head Lice Treatment
- Types of Human Lice.
- What are Head Lice?
- What are Nits?
- Lice Nymphs.
- Head Lice Life Cycle.
- How To Treat Head Lice.
- The Best Way to Diagnose Head Lice
- Are Freezing temperatures effective in killing lice and nits?
- Best Way to Determine How Long You’ve Had Head Lice
- When I look through my child’s scalp, I do not see any lice, only a few nits. Does this mean my child does not have lice?
- Do OTC Lice Shampoos work?
- Can Head Lice Live in my House?
- Who can get Head Lice?
- What are Super Head Lice?
Types of Human Lice.
There are three type of lice species that call humans their host:
Head Lice, Body Lice and Pubic (or Crab) Lice. All three of these lice species feed on human blood. These three types of lice are genetically different from each other and therefore one type of lice cannot turn into another type of lice. Body Lice are rare in the 21st century since they are only spread in un-sanitary conditions where there is no running water. We will only discuss Head Lice here since they are the most prolific in the US 2019.
Our clients come to us from throughout Massachusetts. Some of the most popular locations include:
Acton, Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Burlington, Cambridge, Charlestown, Chestnut Hill, Concord, Framingham, Jamaica Plain, Lexington, Lincoln, Medford, Needham, Newton, Roslindale, Somerville, Sudbury, Waban, Wakefield, Waltham, Watertown, Wellesley, Westford, Weston, Winchester, Woburn.
What are Head Lice?
The head louse (Pediculus humanus capitis) is an obligate ectoparasite of humans. Head lice spend their entire lives exclusively on the scalps of humans and feed on human blood, requiring a blood meal at least once every 4 hours. The presence of Head Lice is not just a problem of the modern era. Evidence suggests head lice have travelled through history with humans for at least 100,000 years. It is debatable as to whether or not head lice should be classified as a public health issue, since head lice do not currently carry disease and therefore cannot be considered a vector. (Body lice, on the other hand, are known to transmit typhus). Head lice, being wingless, do not jump or fly and they can only crawl inefficiently on flat surfaces. However, due to the presence of highly specialized distal claws on their six legs, head lice can maneuver rapidly and efficiently on the human hair shaft. Head lice transmission takes place almost exclusively through direct head to head contact. Head Lice may vary in color from almost transparent to light or dark brown and are adept at camouflaging themselves in human hair. It is estimated that 5%-10% of school children in the US have Head Lice at any given time.
What are Nits?
Nits are Lice eggs. Nits are laid by the female louse on the hair shaft within 1/2 inch of the scalp. Nits are cemented to a hair shaft by a very strong glue like substance. Nits are the size and shape of a small sesame seed. Nits are usually light brown in color. They do not flake off the hair like dandruff, which is one of the ways to differentiate a nit from a dandruff flake or a hair cast. It takes 7-10 days for nits to hatch into baby lice (nymphs).
Lice nymphs are baby lice. At hatching they resemble a louse but they are much smaller (still the size of a nit). Nymphs have to go through three molting stages before they become sexually mature adults and are able to mate. This process takes another 7-10 days. Nymphs are very sensitive to temperature and humidity, hence they stay close to the scalp.
Head Lice Life Cycle.
Head Lice transmission happens through direct head to head contact. Therefore an infestation starts with the impregnated female louse crawling from the current host scalp to the new host scalp. She then starts to lay eggs on the new host scalp. The female louse can lay 6-10 nits (eggs) a day, about 100 eggs during her life. It takes 6-8 days for the nits to hatch into nymphs. Once the nymphs hatch they go through three molting stages which takes another 7-10 days. At day 18 lice are sexually mature enough the mate. The life span of a female louse is about 28 days, while males of the species live shorter lives.
How To Treat Head Lice.
Recent studies have shown that head lice have developed resistance to OTC pesticidal Lice Treatments. OMG Lice Conditioner Solution and OMG Lice Shampoo combined with the OMG Nit-Free Terminator comb offer a toxin-free, safe and effective lice treatment modality. OMG products do not contain any pesticides or harsh chemicals, and are safe for humans and the environment. OMG products use organic ingredients with essential oils which are known to be effective in killing lice. When lice are present we recommend doing daily comb-outs with OMG Head Lice Conditioner Solution, followed by an OMG Shampoo rinse until you get three consecutive clean comb-outs.
As a preventive measure, we advise doing comb-outs once a month.
The Best Way to Diagnose Head Lice
The best way to check for head lice is to do a comb-out with the OMG Nit-Free Terminator Comb and the OMG Head Lice Conditioner Solution. Smear the comb on a white paper towel while doing the comb-out. The presence of head lice and/or nits on the paper towel confirms a positive diagnosis of head lice.
When a person has an allergic reaction to lice bites, an allergic rash may develop at the nape of the neck and behind the ears, along with itching symptoms. When the symptom is an itchy scalp, it is important to note that it takes at least 1-2 months for itching symptoms to appear during a head lice infestation.
Lice are extremely temperature sensitive. Furthermore lice must be close to to the scalp because they need to be at 98.6°F in order to survive. Similarly the lice eggs, called nits, must also be at 98.6°F in order to mature and hatch.
Hence lice and nits are not viable once off a human scalp, because they start to die immediately when removed from the human body temperature.
Furthermore, in order to be certain that your hair brushes, hair elastics, scrunchies and combs are lice free, you can place them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer overnight.
Best Way to Determine How Long You’ve Had Head Lice
1. Perform an OMG Comb-Out.
2. Wipe the OMG comb on a paper towel.
3. Compare your results with our Nitwits Diagnostics Chart.
4. Relax and take a deep breath Head Lice Are Not Harmful
When I look through my child’s scalp, I do not see any lice, only a few nits. Does this mean my child does not have lice?
If you see nits in your child’s hair it is a positive sign that your child has lice, even though you can’t see the actual bugs. Nits cannot appear by themselves, they must be attached to the hair shaft by an adult pregnant female louse.
Furthermore lice are very difficult to spot with the naked eye, even more difficult than nits. When you part your child’s hair you expose the lice bugs to bright light. Lice are extremely light-sensitive and able to move quickly away when exposed to light.
The best way to check for lice and nits is to comb the hair with a good quality metal nit comb and conditioner. Wipe the comb on a paper towel and, if you see pepper spots, it indicates a positive head lice diagnosis.
Do OTC Lice Shampoos work?
According to this recent study, Head Lice have developed resistance to the most commonly used pesticides in OTC Lice Treatment Shampoo products. This study by Dr. Kyong Sup Yoon, published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, showed that in 48 states there was a 100% resistance to the pesticides used in OTC shampoos. Therefore mechanical removal of all nits and lice is necessary in order to eradicate a head lice infestation.
Can Head Lice Live in my House?
Head Lice live only on human scalps. Because lice are temperature, humidity and light sensitive, they need the warmth of a human scalp, and constant access to blood meals, to survive. If a louse falls off a human head it gets cold, dry & it starves to death. Similarly nits cannot hatch if they are not close to the human scalp because, much like a chicken egg, they need to be at the correct temperature for incubation. Stressed parents waste countless hours laundering, vacuuming and bagging, when these measures make no difference in the eradication of head lice. Because head lice are not living in your house, only in your hair!
Who can get Head Lice?
Anyone can get head lice. Here are the top four requirements for a successful head lice infestation.
1. Frequent Head to Head contact with an infested host
2. Very warm scalp with lots of hair.
3. Frequent access to human blood meals.
4. Lack of host knowledge about how to successfully treat lice.
The most common age group that is affected by lice infestations are elementary school aged children. Dogs, cats, or other pets cannot get or transmit human head lice.
We see head lice in 40% of Moms and 5% of Dads.
What are Super Head Lice?
Super Head Lice are the same lice that have been around for ages (as long as humans have been around). They are called Super Lice because they have developed resistance to the pesticides used in OTC lice treatments. The Journal of Epidemiology published a study in 2016 which concludes that 100% of lice tested in 42 out of 48 states developed resistance to the common pesticides.
Lice have always adapted to the new environments in order to survive and there is nothing surprising about this latest mutation. You should not worry about Super Lice since they are the same old lice.
The best way to treat head lice is through manual removal. OMG Lice Conditioner Solution and OMG Lice Shampoo combined with the OMG Nit-Free Terminator comb offer a toxin-free, safe and effective lice treatment.