Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Head Lice

It's the phone call every grade school parent dreads..."Come and pick Johnny up from school. He has lice". Before you scream "Ewwww" and hang your head in shame, you should know that head lice are a very common problem. In fact, only the cold is a more common communicable disease that affects school age children. The medical term for head lice is Pediculosis capitis.

This tiny insect is smaller than a sesame seed and feeds on the blood from your scalp. It is not a sign of bad personal hygiene and lice are spread through personal contact or sharing pillows, hats or other personal belongings. They are human parasites and do not live on pets. They don't have wings so they cannot fly and they don't have hind legs to jump.

The first photo above shows a scalp with an infection from scratching and tiny nits that are clinging to the hair shaft. Nits are the eggs of lice and they take 7-10 days to hatch. It takes another 7 days for the louse to mature and lay more eggs. During this time they are feeding on the scalp blood but they are so tiny it is often hard to see them.

What if you find head lice? You do not have to spray bedding or furniture and that would be toxic. Vacuuming and washing bedding and plush toys is all that is needed. You do not need to shave the head and that can be much more traumatic to the child than having lice. Over the counter lice shampoos generally do the trick and are used one week apart to make sure all of the hatched eggs are treated. The nits should be combed off of the hair shaft with a fine tooth comb and rubbing olive oil in the hair before coming makes it easier to get the nits off. There is no need to treat other family members unless lice or nits is found on them. A close inspection is needed of the hair shaft with special focus behind ears and at the neckline.

We coexist with many parasites and insects and lice are just another nuisance that humans deal with.


CountryMidwife said...

I loaded the page, saw the images, and felt weak and dizzy and short of breath. Oh, jeez. I can be up to my elbow in blood and poop (literally) and none of that bothers me. But this....... oh dear. I won't be able to check back for a few days til it's safely down the page... :)

Toni Brayer, MD said...

CountryMidwife: I hope you scrolled down and saw that you are the winner of the Rosehips face serum contest. contact me ASAP.

CountryMidwife said...

You're right, I was too traumatized to scroll down and see the happy news! Thanks so much! I emailed you my info...

PragmaticMom said...

I totally agree with you that lice is just a nuisance. My kids got lice twice and the first time I really freaked out We used the olive oil treatment, Robi comb and terminator comb and I blog on How To: Detect and Get Rid of Lice at

Pragmatic Mom

pilgrim said...

I'm going to repost with an html link tag so the article will hyperlink:

Read it in the NYT a month ago check it out:
Cetaphil skin cleanser, once a week for 3 weeks. Apply it, comb through, blow dry, shampoo out 8 hours later. Peer reviewed, Pediatrics 2004, 133 kids, 95% cure rate ! Cetaphil !

As a summer camp nurse, I weep with joy at this news.

die,pediculo scapitus, die!

Knitted_in_the_Womb said...

My second daughter came home with lice when I was 37 weeks pregnant with my 5th child--UUUGGGHHH!

Considering that my two older daughters not only share a bedroom, but a bed (yes, they have their own beds, but they prefer to sleep together, my two boys do the same thing), I knew it was only a matter of time before I had two itchy heads to deal with. Though I successfully rid my daughter of lice for several days after the initial appearance, one week later the school nurse called to let me know that both girls had lice. :-(

The school nurse recommended "LiceMD" to treat the lice. It is a dimethicone oil that smothers the lice. Dimethicone is a component in many hair conditioners. My girls had the softest hair for weeks after that--rather than the dry, brittle hair that I heard about from using other lice shampoos.

david said...

the problem with some of the commercial products out there. is that they use harmful substances that can harm your kids. and ive been googling for days now. and everybody seems to be using this, so i contacted the number and ordered it. and voila.. it worked like a charm.

david said...

your article is a very good read, to be honest.. i really dont want to use some kind of chemical agents on my kids head.

but sometimes. the home remedies just doesnt work. and head lice, is really hard to get rid of. also nits are hard to remove because you have to get a special comb to remove them.

Toni Brayer, MD said...

To the person that posted a response today. Please repost it as I accidentally delegated it Thank you.

Coffee, Tea and Heart Disease