– What is Head Lice (Pediculosis Capitis)?
Head lice (pediculosis capitis) are a very common, itchy, highly contagious condition that often occurs in nurseries, day care centers, and schools. It is caused by infestation with the human head louse, Pediculus humanus capitis.
– What is the life cycle of the head louse?
Lice are very small insects that feed on human blood. In head lice, the female louse attaches her eggs to the base of hair shafts. The eggs (nits) hatch 8–10 days later. While the adult louse cannot survive more than 2 days off of the human head, a nit can stay alive for up to a month off the body (on clothes, hairbrushes, or carpets, for example). Lice can spread from child to child by close personal contact and by sharing belongings.
– Who’s at risk?
Children aged 3–10 are most likely to become infested. Girls are more likely to have head lice than are boys.
– What are the signs and symptoms?
The most common locations for head lice infestations include:
- Behind the ears
Moving lice or non-moving nits may be seen on the scalp and hair. Each louse is approximately 1–2 mm long and is white-gray in color. The white nits are smaller (0.5 mm), are firmly attached to the hair shaft, and are usually located very close to the scalp. Small red bumps may be seen on the scalp, neck, and shoulders. Occasionally, the lymph nodes behind the ears or in the neck may be swollen. Head lice infestations are quite itchy.How can you take care?
- Search for lice and nits on wet hair using a fine-toothed comb.
- Use an over-the-counter medication for head lice exactly as directed. These medicines are insecticides and should not be applied in greater quantity or more frequently than recommended. These medications are not recommended for children younger than 2 years old.
- Wash bed linens, towels, hats, etc, in hot water, and dry them using the hot cycle for at least 20 minutes.
- Vacuum floors and furniture used by the infected child.
- Do not share combs, hair brushes, hats, towels, bedding, clothing, headphones, stuffed toys, or other items with someone who has head lice.
- Treat the immediate contacts of the child also.
- Consult a dermatologist if self-care measures have not successfully killed off (eradicated) the infestation who can recommend:
- Permethrin lotion or shampoo
- Malathion lotion
- Lindane lotion, cream, or shampoo (not used as much anymore due to potential toxicity)
- Ivermectin pills
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