'Eggs' or ('nits')
What came first the louse or the egg? For now, lets begin with the egg also more commonly known as a nit. The nit is a whitish-yellow speck that is about 1 millimeter in length. It is similar in appearance to a sesame seed. It is attached firmly to the hair shaft with a fixative substance close to the scalp. (Although at times it can be further down the hair shaft depending on a warmer climate.) There it will incubate for 5-7 days then hatch and become what is known as a nymph, or a baby louse.
Nymphs look like a freckle or a speak of dirt. They live directly on the scalp. No longer than two hours after they are hatched the nymphs need to have a feed of human blood.
Nymphs are almost impossible for the untrained human eye to see. If you look at the tip of a ball point pen, that is the approximate size of a nymph when hatched.
Nymphs mature into adult lice within about 9 to 12 days.
All about head lice
Head lice are small, six-legged parasites that feed from human blood. They have a claw on each of their six legs. This enables the louse to grasp onto the shaft of the hair. Head lice are also about the size of a sesame seed. Lice have antenas which are positioned beside the eyes. With this antena they can detect temperature, odour and blood type. Lice are intelligent, have a sharp sense of smell and excellent eyesight. Head lice are like chameleons, they can adapt to their environment. Often the darker our skin, the darker the head lice.
Mature adults don’t tend to grow larger than 2 millimeters and female lice are larger than males. Mature lice live for about three to four weeks. Young adult and mature lice feed on the host’s blood multiple times a day. As long as there’s a food source readily available, an adult louse can live for as long as 30 days on a human head.
The female louse has a distinct inwards V shape out of her tail. She lays her eggs twice a day and as many as 5 eggs at a time. As she lays she is fixing them to the hair shaft. These eggs will take 7-10 days to hatch.
The male louse body is narrow. His body is striped and the point of his tail is slightly rounded.
It is impossible for lice to jump or fly. They don't have jointed bodies, hind legs or wings.
Lice can move around with great speed.
Head lice depend on human blood for survival. They secrete siliva when feeding which helps the blood to be withdrawn quickly and not clot. Head lice feed every 3-4 hours. Lice prefer certain blood types. There is an inherited protein that is found on the surface of the red blood cells. This is called the 'Rhesus' or (Rh). We are either Rh positive or Rh negative. Lice do not like feeding from an incompatible blood source. If it does feed from an incompatible food source the louses intestinal tract will explode and the louse will die. If the louse has already laid her eggs before she dies, when the eggs hatch, whatever the nymphs (baby lice) feed on first will become a safe blood type for the nymph.
How is head lice caught?
The primary way head lice can be transmitted from one head to another is through head to head contact. Lice can also be caught through hairbrushes, bedding, soft toys, hair ties. Although this is not as likely as head to head contact. Actually less that 5% is caught this way.
The most common age group to catch head lice is now thought to be between the ages of 9-16 years.
Head lice is more commonly found on long hair than short hair. The length of our hair acts like a 'bridge' to the scalp for the head lice. The head lice travel up the length of the hair onto the scalp to feed. The longer and the more unrestricted our hair is, the greater the risk of a transference. The smaller volume on short hair allows for more sun exposure which the head lice dont like. The sun light also causes the scalp to become a little tougher and harder work for the head lice to penetrate into and draw the blood from.
How do you know you have head lice?
The best way to determain is to do a thorough examination. The 'Hot Spots' (the most common places to find head lice) are, the crown, around the ears, nape of the neck and the fringe area.
Look out for signs of itching, swollen glands, a rash at the back of the child's neck also sleepiness due to itching overnight.
Only 50% of people find themselves itchy with head lice. The itchyness is due to an allergic reaction to the siliva the louse secretes. Usually by the time the head starts to itch the head lice has been active on the head for between 1-2 months.
What to do if you find head lice?
The best thing you can do is to take care of the problem straight away. With each female louse laying up to ten eggs a day, infestation can occour quickly.
Treat your childs hair with non toxic natural or organic treatments.
It is important not to treat your childs hair with pesticides or other dangerous chemicals.
*Head lice has built up a resistance to most over the counter products. In years gone by these products would've worked successfully*
There are no short cuts to treating head lice. Every louse and egg must be removed. Leaving just one egg (even though the hair has been treated) can result in the re- infection.
My Hot Tips
*The best tip I can give you is to invest in a professionally recognised head lice removing comb. My favourite is the Lice Breaker Nit Free comb.
The comb is also a patented design and is the preferred choice in head lice removing clinics around the world.
*A head lice clinic like the 'Head Lice Hub' can examine, treat, remove and educate you. Our clinic will complete the head lice removing service a lot quicker and with greater accuracy than the untrained eye.
*Keep your child or yourself away from people until you've had your treatment.
*Notify friends, school, daycare, kinder, family members of your head lice.
*If there is anyone else in the family, they too should be checked for signs of head lice.
It is good to excercise common sense cleaning. There is no need to purchase furniture and carpet sprays.
Think about what you've been in contact with in the last 24 hours. Most commonly used belongings can include bedding, bath towells and stuffed animals. These are required to be washed in hot water or alternatively dryed in a hot dryer for 30 minutes.
Lightly vacuum floors, your favourite chair and couch.
Boil water and put in brushes, combs or hair ties for 15 minutes or alternately soak them in ammonia, alcohol or dishwashing detergent for at least two hours. Ensure they are totally submersed. Remember lice can shut down their nervous system and survive under water for up to eight hours.
Eggs cannot re-attach themselves to a new head of hair unless the nymph inside the egg was due to hatch and the nymph was touching a piece of attached hair. That way the nymph could make its way to the scalp to feed. It would need to feed within two hours of hatching before it would dehydrate and die.
Remember 1 in 4 people have head lice at any given time.
Head lice is almost as common as the viral cold.
Head lice prefer clean heads.
Head Lice are Nocturnal. (They party hardest when we sleep).