Head lice: everything you need to know about pediculosis

Head lice: everything you need to know about pediculosis

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Head lice generally affect children between 3 and 10 years of age the most, and in some cases, adults who live with children. Girls suffer from them more and although it is not yet fully scientifically confirmed, everything leads to believe that they are related to the type of hair, according to its greater or lesser degree of adherence. There are many doubts that parents have about the incidence and infestation of lice. Here are the most frequently asked questions:

1- What are lice?
They are insects that feed on blood and lodge in another organism from which they live. There are many species of lice and each is specific to each type of host. For example, the human louse only parasitizes humans and not other animals. It has an elongated shape, gray, white or yellow. It turns red only when it is full of blood. It has 6 legs, with claws at the end and its head is smaller than the body. They usually lodge in the nape, behind the ears.

2- What are nits?
Lice eggs are called nits. The female louse lays between 50 and 300 eggs, at a rate of about 10 'a day. They are made of a sticky substance that is insoluble in water, which makes it difficult to remove. The nit hatches in 7-10 days and the larvae mature in a couple of weeks. They stay very close to the scalp.

3- How do lice affect people? What are the symptoms?
The appearance of lice is not a sign of poor hygiene. Hygiene does not prevent infestation. It does not influence the frequency of washing the hair, nor the hairstyle. They affect girls more than boys, possibly due to the greater physical contact that occurs between them, due to their ways of playing. The presence of lice on the head of children causes intense itching due to the discharge of the louse when sucking. Their saliva produces dermal hypersensitivity and inflammatory reaction. Due to the intense itching that it produces, they cause scratching lesions and increased local inflammation. This increases the chance of getting secondary bacterial infections, rashes, scabs, and oozing. It can also cause headache, malaise, and irritability. The itching caused by head lice does not stop, even at night or when children are asleep.

4- When and where is the greatest infestation of lice observed?
Lice are usually present throughout the year, although their spread is most noticeable during the spring. Pests are frequent in schools or in crowded places, camps, swimming ... and in situations in which children share pillows, towels, caps, combs, or play with their heads very close to each other. It is so frequent in long or short hairs.

5- When and how to carry out the treatment?
It is essential that before starting to treat head lice, that a lice or nits are located. Do not apply any product until you have a diagnosis that you have lice. It is easier to do it manually, in a well-lit place, if possible with the help of a magnifying glass, using a comb with very fine and narrow teeth, or brush, on dry hair and without previous washing, since the fat facilitates the fixation of the active ingredient of the product. The treatment is designed according to the characteristics of the different stages of development of lice.

Pediculicides are personal hygiene products with toxic substances for lice, which act at different levels in their bodies until they cause death. They come in different forms: sprays, shampoo, foams, lotions, etc. In general, covering the application area on the head with a shower cap improves the results of the pediculicide in the treatments.

On the other hand, it is not enough to just destroy the lice. You have to remove the nits and that is only done with your hands, and on wet hair. With the help of a comb or brush and an ovicidal compound, a substance that weakens the adherence to the hair at the same time that it destroys the interior of the egg. Follow the instructions recommended for each product and repeat a new treatment cycle after 7 or 10 days. Combing daily with a long, fine metal tine brush for two weeks to remove the eggs as no product kills 100 percent of the eggs.

6- Why do some treatments not work?
There is increasing resistance to commonly used head lice treatments. The causes appear to be the residual activity of some pediculicides such as permethrin. After the application of some products, a certain amount remains in the hair, which instead of prolonging the effectiveness of the treatment, facilitates the appearance of resistance. Use on wet hair or an application of insufficient doses can contribute to these resistances. If there are healing difficulties, the dermatologist or pediatrician may prescribe treatment with ivermectin as it is sometimes the only solution. But it can only be treated with this substance under a medical prescription.

7- Are home treatments effective?
Substances such as vinegar, tea essences, geranium and lavender extracts are used experimentally. All of them lack rigorous studies that demonstrate a clinical benefit in the treatment of lice.

8- When and how to prevent pediculosis?
No product should be applied preventively on the scalp of children. The most important thing is to avoid contagion. If a parent or teacher discovers that the child has head lice, inform the school, family and friends. With that, you are ruling out a possible lice infestation. It is also important that it be treated as soon as possible since 24 hours after a treatment, the affected child will no longer be able to transmit the infestation. As a preventive measure, children's heads should be checked periodically, especially behind the ears, on the nape and on the bangs. Wash the hair 2 or 3 times a week with suitable mild shampoos, as well as comb the hair daily, clean the brushes and combs often, as well as use them individually. It is recommended never to share combs or brushes with other people.

Source consulted:Official College of Pharmacists

You can read more articles similar to Head lice: everything you need to know about pediculosis, in the category of Lice and nits on site.

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