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What can I do about head lice?

Related Topics: Head Lice

Answers From Experts & Organizations (1)

Primary Care
6,467 Answers
73,168 Helpful Votes

Head lice have not killed anyone, but they are Public Enemy Number One in the school system. Just the mention of head lice will make you scratch (I bet you are thinking about scratching your head right now). Head lice are just trying to survive, so they find a nice person to adopt so they can feed on their blood. Yes, head lice are vampires — they drink tiny amounts of human blood, but fortunately, they do not carry diseases.

Lice mature quickly and are quite prolific in the sex department. Lice lay dozens of eggs (nits); eggs that quickly hatch in order to perpetuate their species. As you read this blog, lice may be drinking blood and having sex on your scalp right now! Now, you can scratch your head.

It is this hysteria about head lice that drive parents and teachers crazy. School systems have adopted questionable no-nit policies banning kids from walking through the doors if any suspicious white specks are spotted on their scalp. Schools must have a team of Nit Nazis.

Insects are taking over our world. Actually, insects outnumber us astronomically, so really we are guests in their world. Dogs get fleas, so we spend millions on ways to eradicate them. Termites are eating our homes. Flies are landing on our dinner plate. Ants and cockroaches show up at night to wander our kitchen looking for morsels and crumbs. Bedbugs are now permanent residents in many fine hotels. Kids — even the cleanest kids from the cleanest homes — can get head lice. I know. My long-haired, daughter brought some home many years ago. Girls are much more social and get head lice more often than boys.

I often see sesame-seed sized nits on my little patients. It is rare that I see a live louse scurrying around, but I have seen those as well. I do tend to take a little perverted pleasure in informing a well-coiffed, snooty mother that her little angel is crawling with bugs.

    “Your daughter has head lice.”

    “What!! Are you sure? Could it be something else?”

    “No. She seems to be harboring a vibrant colony of California scalp-crickets, also known as the common cootie. You probably have them too.”

Like most of the species on Earth, head lice have adapted to treatments, which range from insecticides like permithrin products (like Nix), Malathion, and sulfa antibiotics to the newly-tested Stromectal — a pill containing ivermectin, a drug used to prevent heartworms in dogs. People do prefer pills to messy hair products, but a heartworm medicine seems like an overkill. Petroleum jelly, mayonnaise, and olive oil are sometimes used in an attempt to suffocate head lice, but these treatments have not been proven to be effective. Too bad, since a kid with a scalp full of mayonnaise or Vaseline is so attractive. There is a lice-smothering product called Ulesfia that does seem to work well, as long as the PETA people don’t know you are killing innocent lice. My late grandmother, mother of 15 and self-taught research pharmacologist, used kerosene.

Once you kill off the live lice and their egg offspring, the next job is to manually remove the nits. There are all sorts of finetooth nit combs out there and a few substances that claim to dissolve the epoxy-like glue that attaches lice eggs to the hair shaft, but in the end, adults end up just picking them out, one at a time. There may be an evolving market for trained baboons to pick out the eggs and eat them.

Lice do not respect social status, so anyone can get them. If your kids bring them home from school, then you will need to go to Def Con 4. The recommendation is to clean everything that can logically be cleaned; however, lice do not exist very long off of the human scalp. Vacuum the carpets and mattresses, but again, lice do not fly and travel too far from the home scalp. It is not necessary to burn down the house and move.

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Read the Original Article: Hysteria Over Head Lice