Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are parasites that are found on human heads. They spread from person to person by head-to-head contact through direct contact with the hair of an infected person. Head lice can also spread by personal contact or the sharing of combs, brushes, hats, and other clothing items. Although itching may be a sign of a lice infestation, frequently, individuals have no symptoms. Consider that although the most reliable sign of an infestation is the presence of a live louse or nymph, the presence of nits may be a sign that there is or has been an active infestation. Head lice infestation is very common, though the precise frequency of infections is unknown, estimates span from 6-12 million cases yearly. Those who come in close contact with someone who has head lice, or their contaminated clothing and other belongings, are at risk for acquiring head lice. Thus, it is easy for head lice to be transferred from one person to another. Head lice are a common problem with school-aged children. Preschool and elementary-school children (3-11 years of age) and their families are infected most often, and females contract head lice more often than males.
There are multitudes of ways to contract head lice:
Keep in mind that getting a head lice infection has no correlation with personal hygiene. Anyone can become infested with head lice.
There are three forms of lice, the nit, the nymph, and the adult louse.
Signs and symptoms include:
Head lice can be identified by looking closely through the hair and scalp for nits, nymphs, or adults. Locating a nymph or adult may be difficult because there are usually only a few of them, and they tend to move quickly. Nonetheless, the presence of nits close to the scalp confirms that a person is infested. If the nits are located more than ¼ inch from the scalp, the infestation is possibly an old one. If you are unsure the diagnosis should be made by a health care professional, school nurse, or a professional from the local health department.
For effective elimination of head lice, the infested individual, family members that are also infested, and the home must all be treated. Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications are used to treat the affected people and their families. There are many brands and package directions should be followed.
Treating the whole house is essential. Follow these tips:
Although a person could develop a new infestation from being re-exposed to an infested individual, self-re-infestation is the most customary way for the infestation to reappear. The CDC recommends examining the individual for two to three weeks to confirm that there are no new nits or lice.