What is Lice ?
A lice infestation, medically known as pediculosis, refers to the presence and multiplication of parasitic lice on a person’s scalp or body, causing discomfort and itching due to their feeding on blood. Lice are small, parasitic insects that infest the hair and scalps of humans and some animals. They belong to the order Phthiraptera and are known for their tiny size, measuring only a few millimeters in length. These creatures survive by feeding on blood, and they are highly specialized to attach themselves to hair shafts close to the scalp. Lice are particularly common among school-aged children, but they can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.
There are three main types of lice that affect humans: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. Head lice are the most prevalent and are typically found on the scalp, where they lay their eggs, or nits. Body lice, on the other hand, inhabit clothing and only move to the skin to feed. Pubic lice, also known as crab lice, infest coarse body hair in the genital area.
Lice infestations, or pediculosis, are typically spread through close personal contact or by sharing items like combs, brushes, hats, or clothing. Contrary to popular belief, lice do not jump or fly; they crawl from one host to another. While lice are not known to transmit diseases, their presence can lead to intense itching, discomfort, and, in some cases, secondary bacterial infections from scratching.
Treating lice infestations usually involves the use of specialized shampoos or lotions containing insecticides. Additionally, combing the hair with a fine-toothed comb can help remove adult pediculosis and their eggs. It’s important to thoroughly clean and disinfect any personal items that may have come into contact with an infested person to prevent re-infestation. Regular screening and early detection are crucial in managing and preventing the spread of pediculosis.
Causes of Lice
These infestations occur when lice, which feed on blood, find their way onto a person’s hair and scalp. There are a few common ways lice can be contracted:
- Direct Head-to-Head Contact: This is the most common way lice are spread. When two people’s heads come into close contact, the lice can crawl from one person to another. This often happens among children who play together, or in households where family members share personal items like combs, brushes, hats, or hair accessories.
- Sharing Personal Items: Lice can be transmitted through shared personal items like combs, brushes, hats, scarves, towels, and bedding. This is especially common in settings where personal hygiene items are share without being properly cleaning or disinfected.
- Close Living Conditions: In crowded or close living environments, such as dormitories, homeless shelters, or camps, lice can spread easily due to the proximity of individuals.
- Schools and Daycares: Children, particularly those in preschools and elementary schools, are at higher risk due to their close social interactions and shared spaces. Lice can spread quickly in these settings.
- Hats, Helmets, and Hair Accessories: Wearing items that come into contact with another person’s hair, such as hats, helmets, or hair ties, can facilitate the transfer of pediculosis.
- Infrequently Laundered Clothing: Body lice, which infest clothing rather than hair, can be acquired by wearing clothes that have been worn by someone with body lice.
- Travel: Lice can be pick up in environments where they are prevalent, such as in crowded public transportation, hotels, or other areas with high human traffic.
- Hair Salons or Barber Shops: Although rare, it can be transmitted in settings where hygiene practices are not up to standard, or where tools and equipment are not properly sanitized.
Symptoms of Lice
- Itching or tickling sensation on the scalp.
- Small, red bumps or sores on the scalp, neck, or shoulders.
- Visible presence of tiny, sesame seed-sized lice or their eggs (nits) attached to hair shafts near the scalp.
- Irritability or difficulty sleeping due to itching.
- Presence of crawling pediculosis in hair, especially behind the ears or at the nape of the neck.
- Secondary bacterial infections from scratching, in severe cases.
Prevention Tips for Pediculosis
- Avoid direct head-to-head contact with infested individuals.
- Encourage children to refrain from sharing personal items like combs, brushes, hats, and scarves.
- Educate children about not using shared bedding or towels in communal settings.
- Store personal belongings in separate compartments or labeled bags in crowded environments.
- Conduct regular head checks, especially after close contact with potentially infested individuals.
- Tie long hair back to minimize contact with others in group settings.
- Launder and dry personal items, such as hats and hair accessories, on high heat.
- Consider using lice prevention products or repellent sprays when in high-risk environments.
Home Remedies for Lice
Natural home remedies for lice can be a safe and effective alternative to chemical treatments. Here are some methods:
1) Tea Tree Oil: Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil. Apply this mixture to the scalp and hair, ensuring full coverage. Cover with a shower cap and leave on for about 30 minutes to an hour. Comb out and nits, then wash hair thoroughly.
2) Petroleum Jelly: Apply petroleum jelly on hair and leave it for 4-5 hours and then wash and comb the hair.
3) Lavender Oil and Eucalyptus Oil: Mix a few drops of both lavender and eucalyptus oil with a carrier oil. Apply this mixture to the hair and scalp and leave on for at least 30 minutes. Comb out the pediculosis and nits, then wash hair with a mild shampoo.
4) Lemon and Ginger Paste: Mix one spoon ginger paste in two spoons lemon juice and leave it on your head for 20 minutes and after it dries, wash it with cold water. Doing this process twice a week gives better results.
5) Neem (Azadirachta indica): Make a paste of neem leaves and apply it on the hair and wash it after it dries. Or apply neem oil to the hair and scalp and leave on for about 30 minutes. Comb out and nits, then wash hair with a mild shampoo.
6) Tulsi (Basil): Make a paste of basil leaves and apply it on the head and let it dry for 20 minutes. After it dries, wash your hair and keep some leaves under the pillow before sleeping.
7) Garlic and Lemon Paste: Mix lemon juice in garlic paste and apply it on the hair and wash the hair after an hour, the lice easily die and go away.
8) Castor Oil and Baking Soda: Mix baking soda in castor oil and apply it on hair and leave it overnight. In the morning, wash your hair thoroughly and comb it.
9) Salt and Vinegar: Mix a quarter cup of salt with a quarter cup of vinegar to create a paste. Apply the paste to the scalp and hair, avoiding open wounds or scratches. Leave on for about two hours, then rinse thoroughly and comb out pediculosis and nits.
10) Coconut Oil and Apple Cider Vinegar: Mix coconut oil and apple cider vinegar and apply it on hair. After a few hours, wash and comb your hair. Coconut oil is good for hair, but as a remedy to kill lice, mixing apple cider vinegar in the oil and applying it on the hair easily removes lice.
11) Celery: 10 grams. Grind celery finely and squeeze the juice of half a lemon into it and add 5 grams. Mixing alum powder and buttermilk and applying it on hair cures dandruff and kills nits and lice.
12) Vinegar: Apply undiluted white vinegar to the scalp and hair. Cover with a shower cap and leave on for about two hours. Comb out the lice and nits, then wash hair with a mild shampoo.
13) Olive Oil: Coat the scalp and hair thoroughly with warm olive oil. Cover with a shower cap and leave overnight. Comb out the dead pediculosis and nits in the morning using a fine-toothed comb. Repeat this process for several days to ensure all lice are eliminate.
14) Mayonnaise: Apply a generous amount of mayonnaise to the hair and scalp. Cover with a shower cap and leave on for several hours. Rinse out the mayonnaise and comb out the dead pediculosis and nits. Repeat as needed.
15) Coconut Oil and Anise Oil: Mix equal parts of coconut oil and anise oil. Apply this mixture to the hair and scalp, ensuring all strands are cover. Leave it on for at least 15 minutes, then comb out the pediculosis and nits. Wash hair with a mild shampoo.
16) Comb: In wet hair, comb the hair from top to bottom with a comb with fine teeth. Doing this twice a day will gradually remove the lice. This remedy is the most common among home remedies to remove hair pediculosis.
Can lice be treat with over-the-counter products?
Yes, there are over-the-counter lice treatment shampoos and lotions that contain insecticides. Follow the instructions carefully and consult a healthcare professional if the infestation persists.
Do lice carry diseases?
Lice do not typically transmit diseases, but their presence can lead to itching, discomfort, and, in severe cases, secondary bacterial infections from scratching.
How should personal items be clean to prevent re-infestation?
Wash and dry clothing, bedding, and personal items in hot water and high heat to kill any pediculosis or nits. Combs, brushes, and hair accessories should be soak in hot water or treated with pediculosis-killing solutions.
When should I seek professional medical help for lice?
If over-the-counter treatments do not eliminate the infestation, or if there are signs of a secondary bacterial infection, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional for further advice and treatment options.
How to remove lice from hair permanently?
To remove permanently, it’s essential to consistently use a combination of specialized lice treatment products, thorough combing, and meticulous cleaning of personal items and surroundings to ensure complete eradication and prevent re-infestation.