Lice have existed and lived side by side with mankind since the beginning of time. Lice infestations have been documented by every ancient civilization around the word. At many archeological sites, “nit combs” have been found, including solid gold ones entombed with Egyptian mummies.
There has been much folklore and myth surrounding the contraction and treatment of head lice over the centuries and I am here to bring you the facts as they are known today. We hope we can dispel the myths that so often accompany an outbreak of head lice.
The classic symptoms of head lice are a very itchy scalp often accompanied by vigorous scratching. A sensation that something is moving or crawling through the hair is often felt. In some cases, you may find red sores or superficial red bumps or bite marks that are small red spots; especially around the ear area and nape of the neck which are two of head lice favorite spots to hang out in.
There are no health risks associated with having head lice and they are not known to carry any disease. However, children may have swollen lymph nodes in the front and back of the neck due to excrement and bacteria in the saliva of these parasitic insects that bite.
HOW TO CHECK FOR HEAD LICE
Head lice do not like bright light so it is best to check for head lice in direct sunlight or under a bright light. They can be very difficult to spot as they move quickly. The nits are easier to spot as they do not move and stay firmly attached to the hair strand(after the eggs hatch, the empty sac will still be attached to the hair strand) and the nymphs(baby lice) are the hardest of all to see as they move very quickly.
Carefully inspect your child’s head by dividing the hair into sections and closely examine the hair closest to the scalp; the first 1/4-1/2 inch especially. Depending on the degree of infestation, it may be difficult to spot a lonely nit. However, it only takes one nit to trigger an infestation. So it is imperative that you take your time. A magnifying glass will be helpful as nits are often times smaller than a grain of salt. If you see dots or specs in the hair, try to see if they move when you blow on them. A nit will be glued onto the hair strand and will not be easily blown away or fall off with movement. It will need to be pulled off as it is glued to the hair strand. The nits are usually oval in shape and can appear in varying colors such as, off white, yellow, brown or even reddish.
HOW HEAD LICE SURVIVE AND THRIVE
Head lice feed on the scalp about five times a day and they do so by piercing the head with tiny hook like claws. They then inject a tiny amount of saliva into the head in order to keep the blood from clotting and begin sucking tiny amounts of blood.
There are male and female head lice. The female louse can lay up to 150 eggs during its lifetime at a rate of about 6-8 per day. The life expectancy of a louse is 3-6 weeks from birth to death. This may vary with temperature, humidity and climate. There are three stages of a louse. First, the nit, also known as the egg is laid. After the eggs lays, a nymph (baby louse)is made. In time, the nymph then grows into an adult louse.
The female louse lays eggs close to the scalp; usually not further than the first ½ inch of the hair and may move down the hair shalf as they mature or as the hair grows. When an egg or nit hatches, it releases a nymph while the nit shell stays attached to the hair.
Nits are usually attached to one side of the hair by a type of nit glue that the female louse produces when the eggs. Therefore, the nits will not move from the hair strand when the hair moves, gets wet, or blown on.