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Lice in children: all forms of contagion

Lice in children: all forms of contagion


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Head lice infestation in humans has been known for more than 3,000 years, but it was not until 1939 that a truly effective product to kill lice, chlorophenothane or DDT, was available. And it is that lice are spread very easily and to avoid their contagion, the most important thing is hygiene.

Until recently, daily head grooming was considered an effective preventative method, but today we know that lice prefer clean heads. Therefore, avoiding direct head-to-head contact is the most important thing to prevent the spread of lice among children, which, although brief, is enough for the lice to pass from one person to another. It is also important to have non-transferable personal items, even in the same family and avoid lending them between friends.

The spread of lice occurs through direct contact between someone who has lice and a healthy person. Indirect transmission through a hat or scarf is also possible, as although the louse rarely leaves its host's head, it can do so to feed on another head. In addition, their breathing holes can close under water, where they can live for a short time, about five minutes, and thus also be transmitted through the water of swimming pools, for example.

Nits are not contagious, because if a nit is detached from the hair, it cannot be attached to another hair, because it does not have the glue that holds it to the hair. This glue is provided by the adult female or mother when she lays the egg. On the other hand, the nits need to be at a certain distance from the scalp, since they need the heat and humidity of the scalp to mature. If they move and are not at the necessary distance from the scalp, they do not mature. Therefore, to be infected through hats or combs it is necessary that there are lice, because if there are only nits, contagion will not be possible.

The spread of lice among children usually occurs in the following ways:

1. When using objects or other children's infected clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, or hair accessories.
2. When using combs, hairbrushes or infected towels.
3. When sleeping in a bed or infected mattress, wearing infected bedding or pillows, playing on a carpet or with a stuffed animal that has recently been in contact with a child infected with lice.
4. By setting a direct contact head to head.

The ease of transmission of lice can lead to repeated infestations, leading to discouragement for some parents. And it is that crowded places, where a large number of children attend daily, such as school, favor the spread of lice among children.

1. Avoid catching a single louse. A single fertilized female louse has exceptional reproductive capabilities. It can lay 4 to 8 eggs daily and a total of 300 eggs during its life cycle. Males can fertilize 18 females without having to rest, and females can mate multiple times during their adult life, which can last up to 40 days. Females can lay up to 8 eggs daily for 3 to 5 weeks.

2. Stop direct contact. Direct head-to-head transmission is the most effective form of contagion. Also avoid sharing combs, brushes, items to hold hair like bobby pins, headbands, hair ties, scrunchies and other accessories.

3. Caution at home. Although lice infestation rarely occurs among adults, it is very common among children, of all ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic backgrounds. The spread of lice can occur in anyone, regardless of their personal hygiene, as long as there has been direct contact with another person affected by the lice.

4. Attention to crowded places. The classrooms, the school, the nursery school, the libraries ... are favorable places for the contagion of lice, precisely because contact between people implies the approach of heads. The coexistence of a large number of people in a closed space facilitates the spread of lice.

5. Caution with those infected by lice. Although children should continue going to school, it is recommended, to avoid contagion, flee from groups in which there is already someone who has lice. However, in this case, the most important thing is to avoid head-to-head contacts, avoiding marginalizing the infested.

6. Pick up the hair. Girls get lice more often than boys, not because they wear long hair (this is a myth), but because their games involve more head-to-head contact, hugging more often, and swapping hair accessories. With long hair, nit removal is more difficult, but it is not a contagion factor. Wearing your hair up can be an additional precaution to avoid contagion between girls, but above all they should avoid head-to-head contact.

Marisol New

If you want to know more about lice, we have prepared a series of lice and pediculosis videos with an expert who will give you a lot of information about what they are, how to prevent them and how to treat them.

You can read more articles similar to Lice in children: all forms of contagion, in the category of Lice and nits on site.


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