Common Illnesses

Head Lice

Head lice are parasites that live in human hair, eyebrows and eye lashes.  They feed on human blood several times a day. Head lice are found world-wild, but infestation is common in school age children and their household.

Head lice move by crawling, they do not jump or fly.  They are spread usually by person to person contact.  The spreading of lice can also occur by coming in contact with the infested person’s belongings, such as clothing, brushes or towels.  Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice.

Symptoms:

Itching is the most common symptom of head lice.  This is due to an allergic reaction to the bite.  It may take 4 to 6 weeks after infestation for the itching to begin.  Other symptoms are: tickling or the feeling of something moving in the hair, sleeplessness, sores on the scalp from the scratching.

Treatment:

Over the counter medications are recommended, however they do not kill the nits (eggs), it kills the adult lice only.  It is very important to comb the nits out using the nit comb that comes with the medication.  The patient can NOT comb their own hair; this must be done by another person. A second treatment is recommended on day 9 to kill newly hatched lice before they can lay eggs. 

All bedding, including pillow and blankets must be washed.  Clothes, sweaters, scarfs, hats and hair accessories must be washed.  If items cannot be washed in hot water they should be dry cleaned or placed in a garbage bag tied up for 2 weeks.  Vacuuming floors, carpet and furniture will also help collect the hair that may have viable nits attached. 

There are other alternative treatments that can be used with over the counter medications.  Placing mayonnaise or olive oil in the hair and cover with a shower cap and left over night and shampooing hair with regular shampoo that has tea tree oil added to it are two of the most common methods.  These treatments should not be used alone to treat head lice.

For more information go to www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice.