What Is Head Lice?

Having lice is really uncomfortable. It is itchy and irritating. Know what to do if you ever find yourself infected with head lice.

Lice feed on your scalp

When you have a lice infection, that persistent itch is caused by the tiny parasites feeding on your scalp. Laura C. Harrington, medical entomologist at Cornell University, explains "A typical head louse will want to feed several times a day on the host. It needs blood for energy and for its metabolic functions. In addition, the female needs the blood in order to produce her eggs, or nits. She pastes the nits to shafts of hair near the scalp."

Lice are equal-opportunity parasite

Lice do not discriminate between human hosts. They can infect bathed or un-bathed hosts, rich or poor hosts. But for kids, it can be embarrassing if their schoolmates find out he or she has lice. According to Dr. Harrington, head lice can affect anyone. She adds that, "Being parasitized has a stigma attached to it because so many people believe this is a socioeconomic condition-which it isn’t."

A clean head does not prevent lice

No matter how clean your head is, or how good your hair smells, you can be infected by lice. Even if you manage to take out mature lice, the nits (baby lice) cling obstinately to hair strands. These nits hatch in a few days and repopulate your head. Every head with hair can be a potential home for lice.

Lice are getting harder to kill

Headlice.org, the home page of the National Pediculosis Association (pediculosis is the human infestation of lice), reports that lice are becoming increasingly resistant to chemicals in anti-lice products. Head lice are also hard to kill because they move really fast.

Be a nitpicker

To get rid of lice, take out the nits. Dr. Harrington says "The key is to get rid of the eggs. "A louse comb has very fine teeth and physically removes the nits. Comb carefully through the hair, section by section. Sometimes it’s easier to use an oily substance on the hair and comb through that. Then you want to wipe the comb periodically with a tissue and rinse it in soapy water to make sure you clean off the nits."

Adult lice and nits do not survive for long away from a warm scalp so it’s not necessary to treat furniture and beddings with dangerous chemicals. While washing cannot get rid of lice and nits, the high heat of a clothes dryer run for 20-30 minutes can kill these parasites.

Source: MSN Health


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