When kids are back at school germs, as well as lice, are making the rounds. Many unsuspecting little heads are
itching and moms around the world are picking those little silver eggs called nits, laid by adult lice off from strand after strand
of baby fine hair. There are ways to protect our offspring from this little invader as well as ways to treat the infestation should it happen.
Years ago, head lice was mainly found in children from lower socioeconomic families. Now, however, it is a
problem that affects the whole gamut of economic levels from the very poor to the very rich. Why all of a sudden are more kids getting lice?
It has a lot to do with the schedules kids keep these days. Not only are they together in school but also at soccer, gymnastics, football,
dance, daycare and so on. Children are generally involved in many activities in addition to school any one of these could lead to cross
contamination. Lice is also becoming resistant to many of the over the counter drugs available right now. By not using the treatment
correctly and fully ridding the head of lice, the lice become stronger.
It seems as though girls, especially those with long flowing hair, are more apt to get lice. This is because
girls tend to be more huggy with each other and enjoy playing things like dress up sharing combs and brushes. Long flowing hair is also more
susceptible due to the ease with which it can make contact with infected hair. It is also much harder to treat long hair, which is why girls
with long locks tend to return to school after treatment with, well, not so long hair.
So what exactly is it about head lice that makes our skin crawl? It may have something to do with the life cycle
of the little buggers. Nits, otherwise known as eggs, can only be laid by adult female lice, which can only find its way to a new host by
crawling. Lice are not able to jump or fly from one host to another. Once on the new host, the lice will feed on its hosts' blood. After
the nits are laid it will take only 7-10 days for the it to hatch, at this point the young louse will be a silver color. After it begins to
feed on the blood the louse will turn to a reddish brown color and after 7-10 days a female will be mature enough to lay more nits.
The good news is that a louse can live for only about 30 days. The bad news is that in that 30 day life span one
louse can lay up to 100 eggs. I can guarantee you that a typical head lice infection contains more than 1 female louse. Do the math. Scary
isn't it. So now, let's talk about preventing the infestation before the nits hatch.
The first step is recognizing the problem. Nits are smooth, oval shaped balls which are attached to the side of
the hair shaft. Nits can be off-white or brown and are slightly smaller than sesame seeds. They are always the same shape, which helps
distinguish them from other small abnormalities found in the hair. Removal of nits can be the easiest way to rid your cherub's locks of lice.
This can be done with a very fine-toothed head lice comb, made specifically for this purpose, as well as a lot of patience and tedious work.
If you miss the small window of opportunity to remove the nits and you now have a full-blown case of head lice on
your hands there are ways to treat that as well without resorting to the clippers. There are many over the counter and prescription head lice shampoos
and topical solutions that are effective, though none are 100% and some even contain some very powerful and harmful pesticides, which in some
individuals may cause sickness. The comb mentioned earlier is the safest and most natural way to rid hair of lice and nits.
Preventing an infestation is the easiest way to get rid of lice. Teach children to not share clothes or combs
with friends at school. If someone in the home does come down with lice, following removal the safest and easiest say to prevent cross
contamination is to vacuum. This includes fabric-covered furniture, stuffed animals and carpets. Nits and lice can only survive off from their
human hosts for approximately 24 hours and many times nits that are displaced from the head may not even hatch because they don't have the
warmth they need to incubate as well as the blood that they need for their first meal.
Now that you know all about lice, call yourself a nit-picker and wear your badge proudly.