NITS & LICE: How to prevent, control and eliminate these little nasties.

WHAT ARE HEAD LICE/NITS? 

Head lice are tiny wingless insects. They live among human hairs and feed on blood from the scalp. 

Head lice/nits are very common in young children and their families. They do not have anything to do with dirty hair and are picked up by head-to-head contact.

Head lice are one of those things all parents dread and  there are many reasons as to why a child gets them.  However, I can share what I know and hopefully help you prevent these little blighters arriving in your household and how to get rid of them if they do make an appearance. 

Firstly, I would like to share with the life cycle of a Head louse.

Head Lice.png

What are the signs and symptoms of head lice?

Lice eggs (nits). These look like tiny yellow, tan, or brown dots before they hatch. Lice lay nits on hair shafts close to the scalp, where the temperature is perfect for keeping warm until they hatch. Nits look a bit like dandruff, but aren't removed by brushing or shaking them off.

Unless a child has many head lice, it's more common to see nits in the hair than live lice crawling on the scalp. Lice eggs hatch 1–2 weeks after they're laid. After hatching, the remaining shell looks white or clear and stays attached to the hair shaft. This is when it's easiest to spot them, as the hair is growing longer and the egg shell is moving away from the scalp.

Head lice adult and nit on hair. Adult lice and nymphs (baby lice). Adult lice are no bigger than a sesame seed and are grayish-white or tan. Nymphs are smaller and become adult lice about 1–2 weeks after they hatch. This life cycle repeats itself about every 3 weeks. Most lice feed on blood several times a day, and they can survive up to 2 days off the scalp.

Scratching. With lice bites come itching and scratching. This is due to a reaction to the saliva (spit) of lice. But the itching doesn't always start right away. It depends on how sensitive a child's skin is to the lice. It might take weeks for kids with lice to start scratching. They may complain, though, of things tickling or moving around on their heads.

HOW DO I PREVENT THEM SPREADING?

1. Avoid sharing head-touching items

To reduce the chance of you or your child catching a case of head lice, start by not sharing items that touch the head. It may be tempting to share personal belongings, especially for kids, but lice can crawl from an object to your head.

Avoid sharing:

  • Combs and brushes

  • Hair clips and accessories

  • Hats and bike helmets

  • Scarves and coats

  • Towels

  • Headsets and earbuds

2. Minimize head-to-head contact

When kids play, they may naturally place their heads close together. But if your child’s friend has head lice, your young one may come home with it.

Ask your child to avoid games and activities that lead to head-to-head contact with classmates and other friends. Adults, especially those who work with children, would be wise to follow the same principle.

Put long hair in a ponytail or braid. A small amount of hair spray may help contain stray hair.

3. Tea Tree Oil and Water

This is not scientifically proven, however and I believe (yes me Joanne Gilder) that louse don’t like Tea Tree Oil, as a parent I have sprayed my kids heads in this since starting school and have shared this information with others and it seems to of worked. I am not suggesting this is by any means an absolute prevention cure, but it has worked for me and some of my clients and friends children.

ALSO PLEASE PLEASE DON’T GO SMOTHERING YOU CHILDS HEAD IN TEA TREE OIL.

Please read below for the remedy recipe I have used:

  1. One cleaned out spray bottle (old empty one is fine, recycled, reuse, reduce).

  2. Three drops of Tea Tree Oil.

  3. Rest of the bottle water.

  4. Spray daily on your kids head.
    (Please cover your child’s eyes whilst spraying, it’s not nice to get this stuff in your eyes).

I am sharing this as I natural and inexpensive way to prevent head lice.

4. Blowdrying. Drying your child hair really does help in illuminating these little blighters.

5. Wash your child’s hair on a Friday. This allows natural oils to come to the surface of the scalp before Monday/school day. This is a natural defence as head lice don’t like to they their eggs on oiled hair (with out getting to scientific, this is the best explanation I will offer right now). 

Control and Eliminate

The two main ways to treat lice are:

1. Medication

2. Removing by hand

Medicine: Medicated shampoos, cream rinses, and lotions are available that kill lice. These may be over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medicines. If you buy OTC, be sure it's safe for your child's age. While some over-the-counter shampoos are safe for kids as young as 2 months, others are safe only for kids 2 years and older.

 In some areas, lice have developed resistance to some medicines. This means they no longer work to kill the lice. Ask your doctor or a pharmacist to recommend a medicine known to work in your area. The doctor also can prescribe a medicated shampoo or lotion. For very resistant lice, the doctor might recommend taking medicine by mouth.

Whether the medicine is OTC or prescription, always follow the directions closely. Applying too much can be harmful. Applying too little won't work.

Removing by hand: Removing lice and nits by hand can finish the job if the medicine did not completely rid your child of lice (no medicine is 100% effective). It is also an option for anyone who doesn't want to use an insecticide. And it is the only option for children 2 months old or younger, who should not use medicated lice treatment.

To do this, use a fine-tooth comb on wet, conditioned hair every 3–4 days for 3 weeks after the last live louse was seen. Wetting the hair temporarily stops the lice from moving, and the conditioner makes it easier to get a comb through the hair.

There's no need to buy electronic combs that claim to kill lice or make nits easier to remove. No studies have been done to back up these claims. You also don't need to buy special vinegar solutions to apply to the scalp before picking nits. Water and conditioner works fine.

Though petroleum jelly, mayonnaise, or olive oil are sometimes used to try to suffocate head lice, these treatments may not work. If medicine doesn't work and you want to try these methods, talk to your doctor first.

A few important things to NOT do: Don't use a hairdryer after applying scalp treatments. Some treatments for lice use flammable ingredients and can catch on fire. Don't use pesticide sprays or hire a pest control company to try to get rid of the lice; these can be harmful. Don't use essential oils (such as ylang ylang oil or tea tree oil) to treat lice on the scalp. They can cause allergic skin reactions and aren't approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Don't ever use highly flammable chemicals such as gasoline or kerosene on anyone.

Are Head Lice Contagious?

Head lice spread quickly from person to person, especially in group settings like schools, childcare centers, slumber parties, sports activities, and camps.

They can't fly or jump, but they have claws that let them crawl and cling to hair. They spread through head-to-head contact, and sharing clothing, bed linens, combs, brushes, and hats.

Pets can't catch head lice and pass them on to people or the other way around.

Do Kids Have to Stay Home From School?

In the past, kids with head lice were kept home from school. But now doctors don't recommend these "no-nit" policies. In most cases, a child who has lice should stay at school until the end of the day, go home and get treatment, and return to school the next day. While they are at school, kids should avoid head-to-head contact with other kids. It can help to put long hair up in a bun, braid, or ponytail.

Eliminating Head lice?

The true answer is we can’t I am sorry to say however we can be aware and try our best as parents to prevent the invertible! 

I do hope this blog helps you understand more about head lice/louse/Nits and what to do if they arrive in your house!

Joanne Gilder

Salon Director

Debink Studio