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1 in 10 Children have head lice. Do you know how to treat them?

It is estimated that at any one time one in ten children have head lice at any one time.

Having head lice is a very common and people should not be embarrassed by it. It is important though to deal with the problem as soon as possible to stop them spreading further.

 What are head lice and nits?

Head lice are small grey/brown insects they can only live close to scalps which they feed off.

Head lice cling strongly to hairs. Head lice lay eggs which take between seven and ten days to hatch.

Nits are the empty white shells which are left when the eggs hatch. Nits appear similar to dandruff however you can distinguish between the two as nits stick firmly to the hair whilst dandruff can be easily brushed out.

 How can I prevent head lice from spreading?

Head lice only spread by moderately prolonged head to head contact.

Head lice cannot jump or fly and cannot live on bed clothes etc.

In order to help minimise the spread of head lice all heads should be checked weekly with a fine tooth (nit) comb.

Head lice can be present for up to a month without an itch being present. If one person in a household is identified as having head lice all other heads who come in close contact with the person should be checked for live lice. This includes parents and grandparents.

Tea tree oil and repellent sprays are used to try and prevent head lice though there is limited evidence of their effectiveness.

 How can I treat head lice?

There are three main methods of treating head lice?

 1. Wet combing Head lice are removed by using a nit comb.

This is similar to the method used for detection but more intense.

• Hair is washed with ordinary shampoo

• Rinse out the shampoo and apply liberally ordinary conditioner

• Comb the hair with a normal comb to help remove tangles

• With the nit comb slot the teeth into the hair at the roots so it is touching the scalp

• Draw the comb through the hair to the ends.

• After each stroke check the comb for lice. You may need a magnifying glass to help.

• If any lice are present remove using a tissue before making the next stroke.

• Make sure the whole head of hair is combed.

• After completing rinse out the conditioner.

This is very labour intensive as it needs to be done at least four times every four days. The wet combing should remove all live lice but not the eggs therefore the exercise should be repeated until there is at least three sessions with no lice.

2. Physical insecticides

These products are relatively new on the market and act by physically killing the head lice. Due to the way they work resistance is unlikely and they are proving to be very effective at eliminating head lice. Examples include: Dimethicone (e.g hedrin lotion or Linocin lotion) Coconut, anise and ylang ylang spray (Lyclear Sprayaway)

3. Chemical Insecticides

These are the more traditional insecticides used. The chemicals in the spray kill the head lice. Resistance can be a problem with these treatments so it is important to follow instructions carefully to minimise chance of resistance developing.

The important things to remember is that lead lice are common and they can be treated.

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