Headlice are alive and well this Yuletide Season!
I know it’s Christmas season and the last thing anyone wants to hear about is head lice, but there are so many customers complaining about this lately that I thought a reminder article would help in the battle against this scourge. You’ve heard about an outbreak of head lice in your school or community – what do you do? Every time there is a head lice epidemic, your Pharmacist in Grant’s Pharmacy is on hand to advise you about the best treatment option for you and your family. Drop into Grant’s Pharmacy and we will make the confusing issue simple – in private and in confidence – and with a discount on top. This article will explain a little about the louse that causes such mayhem in society and leaves many a parent scratching their head!
Head lice are tiny wingless insects that live in human hair. They are common, particularly in children. Head lice are grey-brown in colour, the size of a pinhead when hatched and a sesame seed when fully grown. They cannot fly, jump or swim and are spread by head-to-head contact, climbing from the hair of an infected person to the hair of someone else. A head lice infestation is not the result of dirty hair or poor hygiene. Head lice can affect all types of hair irrespective of its condition and length. Head lice only affect humans and cannot be passed on to animals or be caught from them.
Life cycle of head lice
A female head louse lays eggs by cementing them to hairs (often close to the root) where they are kept warm by the scalp. The eggs are pinhead size and difficult to see. After 7-10 days, the baby lice hatch and the empty eggshells remain glued in place. These remains are known as nits. Nits glisten white and become more noticeable as the hair grows and carries them away from the scalp.
Head lice feed by biting the scalp and feeding on blood. They take 6-10 days to become fully grown. Once mature, a head louse can crawl from head to head.
A female head louse may start to lay eggs as early as seven days after she has hatched. So to break the cycle and stop them spreading, they need to be removed within seven days of hatching.
How to spot head lice
In most cases, itching is the main symptom of head lice. It is not caused by the lice biting the scalp but by an allergy to the lice. However, not everyone experiences itching. Just hearing that other people have head lice can make you start itching. Simply having an itchy head does not mean you have head lice. A diagnosis can only be made if a live head louse is found. Itching may continue for days or weeks, even after all head lice have been removed. In some cases, itching does not start for months after a person has an infestation. It’s not always easy to see head lice so detection combing is the best way of finding head lice. This involves using a special fine-toothed head lice comb (with tooth spacing of less than 0.3mm to trap the smallest lice) to comb through the hair. It works better on wet hair but can be used on dry hair. Detection combs are available from Grant’s pharmacy.
Wet detection combing
Follow the steps below for wet detection combing.
• Wash hair using ordinary shampoo and apply plenty of conditioner. Use a wide-toothed comb to straighten and untangle the hair.
• Once the comb moves freely through the hair without dragging, switch to the louse detection comb. Make sure the teeth of the comb slot into the hair at the roots with the bevel-edge of the teeth lightly touching the scalp.
• Draw the comb down to the ends of the hair with every stroke, and check the comb for lice.
• Remove lice by wiping or rinsing the comb.
• Work methodically through the hair, section by section, so that the whole head of hair is combed through.
• Rinse out the conditioner and repeat the combing procedure in the wet hair.
Treating head lice
Head lice can usually be effectively treated using medicated lotions or by wet combing. Wet combing can be used without medicated lotions, but needs to be done regularly and can take a long time to do thoroughly. Medicated lotion or spray can be used as an alternative. However, no medicated treatment is 100% effective.
Medicated treatments should only be used if a living (moving) head louse is found. Crème rinses and shampoos are not thoroughly effective and are therefore not recommended. Ensure you have enough lotion to treat everyone in your family who is affected. Use enough to coat the scalp and the length of the hair during each application. Follow instructions that come with the medicated lotion or spray when applying it. Depending on the product you are using, the length of time it will need to be left on the head may vary from 10 minutes to 8 hours.
The normal advice is to treat the hair and repeat the treatment after seven days. Some medicated products also supply a comb for removing dead lice and eggs.
Traditional insecticides must not be used more than once a week for three weeks in a row. Some products also carry a fire warning. Some medicated products may be capable of killing eggs as well as lice, although there is no certainty of this. Check for baby lice hatching from 3-5 five days after you use a product, and again 10-12 days afterwards. A minimum of two applications of lotion are needed to kill lice over the hatching period because the lotions do not always kill louse eggs.
There is a new treatment available now from Grant’s Pharmacy that has been shown to be very effective. It is called Vamousse and it is my recommendation as best treatment 2017/18.
• Vamousse Lice Treatment kills lice and their eggs in 1 treatment.
• Vamousse is up to 100% effective with application and combing.
• Vamousse is non-toxic and pesticide free, and safe for children 2 years and older.
• Vamousse is uniquely a mousse product, allowing quick and precise application to make the process easier, especially when treating children.
Vamousse kills lice AND eggs by dehydration. It is non-toxic and pesticide-free, therefore there is no pesticide resistance. It is safe to reapply as needed and leaves no pesticide residue and rinses out easily. Your Pharmacists at Grant’s Pharmacy will be able to recommend the best treatment options for you and your family.
Always seek advice before using medicated head lice lotions on the following groups:
• young babies (under six months old)
• pregnant women
• people with asthma or allergies
It is recommended that pregnant women use either wet combing or 4% dimeticone lotion.
Preventing head lice
It’s difficult to prevent a head lice infestation. Regular detection combing - for example, on a weekly basis, is the best way to find new lice quickly.
To re-iterate – medicated lotions and sprays do not prevent head lice infestations and should only be used if a live louse has been found on yours or your child’s head.
There is a product that helps prevent head lice – these are hairbands called Leeloop. They are colourful and kids actually like them! These hair bands are a really great alternative to regular head lice repellent sprays. Even though a lot of the repellent sprays are actually quite convenient to use nowadays, it’s still a bit of a pain applying them and brushing them through the hair etc. They function like a normal hair band – they are actually really strong and high quality. Out of ten in terms of functionality as a normal hair bobbin I would score them ten!
The hairband is infused with essential oils which are designed to repel the lice – they actually smell pretty good as well so don’t be deterred by the fact that they have a fragrance to them. Using essential oils means that you are using natural ingredients which contain no pesticides which is a good child friendly approach to this problem. I advise the use of pharmacy products such as full marks, lyclear, vamousse, if you have actually detected head lice on your child’s scalp – this product is just for use as a repellent – not a treatment.
Comb the scalp over a piece of white paper/towel during detection combing to make it easier to see a louse.
Check all of your family and let close friends know if you detect any lice.
Treat the source of the infestation. If you suspect another child of having a persistent case of head lice which is causing your child to catch them – might be best to have a friendly chat with Mum or Dad or failing that – keep away from the source as much as possible.
After treating your child’s scalp wash their bed clothes on a wash over 60 degrees or on a normal wash followed by a 15 minute tumble dry. This ensures live lice are removed from bedding even though it is unlikely for them to spread this way.
Encourage children with long hair to wear it tied back at school.
Ask your children not to share hats, scarves, superhero masks or tiaras!!
Avoid selfie photos!
Once you have treated your child it’s no harm to routinely wash all the bed linen at sixty degrees and hoover the house and car including child seats.
Head lice are annoying but at Grant’s Pharmacy we can recommend the best treatment options and offer the most up to date advice on how to rid you, or your children of the dreaded lice. Mention this article for 15% discount on all head lice products.