Pediculosis is an infestation of lice, parasite insects in the bodies of humans, usually found on scalps. Lice are tiny insects that live and crawl through the hair. These insects live on the heads of their human hosts and thrive on human blood to survive. They stay close to the skin for moisture, food, and warmth. They move freely and quickly, and therefore they can be easily transferred from one person to another. Itching of the scalp is the most common symptom which further leads to skin sores and skin infections. The lice may spread from person to person through close physical contact or by sharing combs, clothes, towels, pillows, clothes, bedding, furniture, hats, or linen.
The three lice species that infest humans are Pediculus humanus capitis (head louse), Phthirus pubis (crab or pubic louse), and Pediculus humanus corporis (body louse). All the three insects are obligate human parasites.
Pediculosis is more common among females than males and is most frequent in children, especially young and adolescent females. Direct head-to-head contact is the most common mode of transmission. Early diagnosis and treatment is important. A child who often scratches his/her head needs to be examined for lice near the scalp. Some common symptoms observed are:
- Tickling feeling of something (lice) moving in the hair.
- Itching scalp, especially at the hairline and in the nape of the neck.
- Irritability, especially in young children as they are unable to express their discomfort.
- Sores on the head caused by constant scratching.
- Presence of nits (eggs) or lice in the hair close to the scalp.
Non-prescription medications are available in pharmacies to treat this condition. Medicated shampoos to treat head infested with lice are available in plenty that are easy to use and effective. However, consult a healthcare provider before treating a child less than a year.
All family members need to be checked for pediculosis since failure to treat infected members will cause reinfestation in the household. Some prevention steps to avoid reinfestation are:
- Thoroughly vacuuming the entire house, especially the infected person's room including their furniture as there is a risk of easy transmission.
- Soaking combs and brushes in a solution of water and anti-lice medicated shampoos for an hour.
- Washing all bedding, blankets, pillow cases, and clothes worn by an infected person within the past 72 hours in hot water for at least 20 minutes.
- Sealing items that cannot be washed such as hats, coats, and scarves in airtight plastic bags for two weeks
The most effective treatment for head lice typically involves washing your hair with a head lice shampoo, and then patiently and diligently removing the nits with a lice comb. For light infestations, head lice can be treated by manually removing the live lice and nits. As there are often a lot of nits and lice on a child, they are hard to find and remove instantly. You need to continue to find nits for days after treatment to completely get rid of head lice.
It could help if you avoid the following to ensure that the treatment is effective and the infestation does not get aggravated:
- Do not use a hair dryer on your child's or infected person's hair after applying the scalp treatments as some of these contain flammable ingredients.
- Do not use sprays or pest control to get rid of lice as they can be harmful.
- Do not use multiple medications to treat head lice.
- Do not use a cream rinse or conditioner before applying lice medication.
- Do not wash your child's/infected person's hair for about a day or two after using a medicated treatment
Be patient and follow the recommended treatments and preventive measures to get rid of head lice. This will keep your family free of lice infestation.
Disclaimer: This HairGlamourista article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.