Has your child been scratching her head a bit too often lately? Head lice infestation is not as rare as it is thought to be.
Lice are parasitic insects that feed on human blood, which they draw from the scalp. A fully-grown head louse feeds several times a day, and after every feeding he injects saliva into the wound, which causes irritation and itching. Lice are not harmful per se, but the itching is extremely uncomfortable. In addition, excessive itching leads to infection which, if left untreated, can get worse and cause the hair to get matted with pus.
While the life span of lice is extremely small - they barely live for more than a month - the female louse lays between 50 to 100 eggs before she dies, which in turn leads to more lice. Lice eggs are known as nits, and they are generally found close to the scalp. They are silvery white in colour, and resemble dandruff, but have a much firmer consistency.
Most kids get lice from other kids, and hence lice is extremely common in school-going children. Schools have been proved to be portals of infections for children. Most infectious disease (chickenpox, measles etc.) in a child can be traced to some contact in school. Lice don't fly, so as long as your child keeps his head away from other 'heads', his chances of contracting lice is minimal. However, lice can also be contracted through shared clothing, caps and brushes.
Getting rid of lice
Prevention is better than cure. Teach your child to keep his head away from the heads of other children. They shouldn't sit so close that their heads touch. Sharing of combs, brushes or caps should be discouraged.
- Many over the counter prescriptions and medicated shampoos like Mediker are available to get rid of lice.
- Comb your child's hair thoroughly after shampooing it, to get rid of dead and dying lice.
- Repeat the procedure after a few days or a week.
- Wash your child's clothing in hot water, as it kills the lice.
- Soak your child's hairbrush and comb in hot water for around half an hour.
- If your daughter has long hair, you could consider cutting it short. However, this is not necessary, but it does help maintain hygiene.
- It may take a couple of months for a person to become sensitised to the presence of lice, because the scalp doesn't start itching immediately. So when treating the affected person it is also important to check all people who have been in close contact with the person during that time.