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Head lice is most commonly spread among school aged children or those who regularly attend a daycare setting. Some general myths, and the truths, about headlice: 1) Lice is something only dirty people get. In reality, lice prefer clean hair rather than dirty because the natural oils make the shaft to slippery to lay their eggs in unwashed hair. 2) Lice are transmitted by jumping from one scalp to another. Lice do not jump. They are transmitted by sharing of headgear such as hats, combs, barretts, and scarves. 3) You can get lice from someone’s house. Lice can only live a couple of hours without a blood meal. If a louse travels off the scalp onto furniture, pillows or clothing, it will most likely die quickly of either starvation or exposure. Although it is possible to contract lice from someone’s furniture or pillows, it is one of the least likely sources.

If your child is sent home due to a lice breakout at school or daycare and is found to have contracted the bugs, there are several remedies available. The most common is a visit to the nearest drug store that carries products such as RID or Lice-B-Gone. These are pyrethrin based shampoos that usually contain a tiny metal comb used after treatment to pull nits (eggs) away from the hair shaft. Nits must stay close to the scalp for warmth or they will not hatch. There are also furniture sprays available that may be used on mattresses, couches and any other cloth covered area that cannot be put into the washing machine. These shampoos should be used again one week later.

Should one have more of an inclination to take a more wholistic approach, there are several methods that can be used that are equally effective and does not utilize the same chemical treatment. Coat the hair with an oil based treatment such a heavy conditioner, mayonnaise or even vegetable oil. Comb thoroughly with nit comb several times. Repeat this process daily for one week, followed by washing as normal and blowdrying. Make sure to boil the comb after each use in order to kill the eggs, as a precaution. Do the same with all hair care products or wash them in hot water and dry them in a dryer.

All cloth items that can be put into a dryer should be for at least one hour. The sprays, like the shampoos, are not a necessity. Instead, one may opt to vacuum thoroughly on a daily basis. Be certain to throw the vacuum bag away after each use.

Lice will frequent the scalpal areas at the nape of the neck and behind the ears. They like to stay warm. The primary symptom is itching, of course. Upon inspection, one will most likely see nits rather than the bugs themselves as they are very fast and hide quickly. Nits are very small, less than 1/8″ long, egg shaped, and the color is anywhere from white to grey. Lice lay their eggs, as stated previously, close to the hair shaft. If an egg is found more than 1/2″ from the hairshaft, it is probably a dead egg. Slip it off the hair and flush it down the toilet. Nits can be hard to distinguish from oily deposits on the hair. In order to help determine if it’s a nit or oil, try to pull it off. If it slides off easily, it is may be oil. Nits are kept in place by a sticky substance surrounding them applied by the female louse.

Body lice and pubic lice (crabs) are treated similarly to head lice and with similar symptoms. One of the primary differences is that, in addition to the itch, the next most common symptom will be the bites. This is particularly true of body lice as the bugs themselves are much smaller than those of either pubic or head lice and much more difficult to detect. In any lice instances, it is recommended to treat all areas that may be covered with hair as a precautionary measure. Pubic lice are most frequently transmitted by intimate contact and body lice may be contracted from publicly used facilities such as hotels, motels, or sleeping with someone who is infected. In all cases, lice are transmitted by very close or direct contact with an infected individual. All members of the household should be treated, regardless of symptoms.