Lice Treatment Manual
Lice AdviceBe calm. Be unapologetic. You are not alone. In fact, your child is among the multi-millions of children aged 3-11 who are plagued by head lice each year.* After the common cold, head lice is the second most communicable disease among school children. Though lice on your head or on that of a loved one are multiplying faster than bunnies in Spring - about eight nits a day from each active female - your panic will not slow them down. Once you know how to treat and eliminate them, you can quickly make up for lost time. As you deal with lice don't forget that neither you nor your child did anything wrong or dirty (literally) to cause this, so lose the guilt. Cleanliness is no guarantee that lice will not enter your life. You are capable of getting control of this pest and winning back health, sanity and pride.
Spot a Louse When You See OneYes, louse is the singular of lice. The true name is pediculus humanus capitis but kids seem to prefer the term, "cootie." Lice are ecto (meaning outside rather than inside) parasites that are about 1/16-1/8" in length and wingless. This last part is important to remember because it means they cannot fly or hop. However, these tenacious creatures have six legs and can crawl like crazy. Those little legs have very effective claws - all the better to lock themselves close to the scalp and up to about ¼ inch on a hair follicle. Their favorite nesting spots are the top of the head, behind ears or at the nape of the neck. Left unchecked too long and they may migrate south to eyebrows or - even worse - eyelashes. Given the changes that lice go through in their life spans, it is important to know what exactly you are looking for:
Nits: These are the eggs. They are 1/31" in size and yellowish or gray/white. They are very close to the scalp and stuck like glue with their own gooey adhesive. Nits take about a week to hatch into the next stage of irritation: nymphs.
Nymphs: Now the lice begin to get frisky. While they molt about three times, they discover their legs and claws and can really dig in. They begin to change colors and usually go to shades of brown/black, light to dark, making them even harder to see. Also, they discover they don't like light, making them hide closer to the hair follicle and scalp. They are eager to be adults.
*Centers of Disease Control and Prevention
Adults: Lice now are in their prime. They can live about a month. The really bad part of that month is that females can spawn around eight nits a day, each female of which can start her own egg production in about a week, so you do the math! Adults are 1/16-1/8" long or about the size of a pinhead or a sesame seed and maintain their brown/tan or grayish color. While they do not hop head-to-head, they can crawl from head to head, are very fast and hard to catch once they are on the move.
The relatively good news is that head lice do not transmit diseases to humans. They are species specific, meaning they do not spread via pets or other animals. They just really like humans (the humanus part of their technical name, remember?). Amongst us, they prefer the hair follicle configuration of Caucasians, Asians or Latinos rather than African-Americans. But it is important to remember that African-Americans are not excused from this potential curse. Lice like to live off of all types of blood and can only last about two days without a head to feast off of so keep in mind that those critters fallen off our heads are looking desperately for a new home (the term is host, which sounds much friendlier than it is) for those two days.
These homeless lice can be picked up from the obvious head-to-head contact with someone infected or by sharing combs, hats, blankets and pillowcases, hoodies - you get the idea. Rarer but still in the danger category are shared helmets and headsets; the hard surfaces of these are more difficult for the lice to adhere to for long but they still try! Helmets with fabric linings, however, are very susceptible carriers. And then there is rolling around on carpet, beds or sofas where someone infected has just been. Something as small as a sesame seed is very hard to spot. And six sets of claws, no matter how tiny, can latch on very quickly and tightly.
Got An Itch? Head Lice SymptomsHere we go with first signs. Annoyance usually begins with a little itch. As you recall from the biological lifespan description above, head lice are at least a week old by the time the itching begins and really at home on your head. They are finding their legs and can begin to reproduce as they move into adulthood.
The natural response to an itch is to scratch it. You now are pulled into the head lice trap. Scratching irritates the scalp, sometimes enough to make minute breaks in the skin which - you guessed it - make it easier for lice to draw blood. You are opening another lock in their food source Panama Canal.
In addition to itching, some early signs are discomfort while sleeping. Remember, lice love the dark and can become sprightly at night. Or you may just have the sneaking suspicion that something is moving around on your head even when there is no breeze.
Stop It, You're Making It Worse!We've established that scratching is lice's friend. So, the next logical move is into the shower to lather shampoo like crazy, right? Sorry, lice seem immune to regular daily-use shampoos (lice have protective coatings and those claws).
Now we come to "old wives' tales" about treating head lice that are not just ineffective, but are messy and frustrating. Do NOT try these at home:
Kitchen Oils and Such: The use of mayonnaise, olive or cooking oil, butter and the like to "smother" the head lice or "gum up" their legs does not work. Lice are impervious to these and it's about your head -- not a head of lettuce.Turpentine, Diluted Kerosene or Other Flammable Fluids: Fooling with anything like this is not only dangerous in many ways but can also do serious damage to scalp, hair, eyes and any other part of our heads. Seriously - fuel?! Ice Packs or Heat Lamps: True, lice do not like extreme cold; this is why human body temperature is so appealing to them. Nor do they like extreme heat, which is why hot-water washing and high-temperature drying anything your head touches will be discussed later. But the amount of time and degrees necessary to affect any change using topically applied ice packs or sitting under heat lamps are illogical and impractical.
Douse the Louse or Rid the Nit: Head Lice TreatmentNow that you know more about head lice, let's get serious about eradicating them. There are two treatments that can work. Each treatment has a couple of approaches so you can choose what you believe might be best for you.
Topical Treatments: Douse the Louse
Over-the-counter (OTC) head-lice specific or prescription applications such as lice shampoos or lotions are in two categories: prediculicida (kills most live lice) or ovicidal (kills some lice eggs). It is very important to know this distinction so you can make a more informed decision about which preparation will address your immediate need. To identify the need, you must investigate the life stage of the lice. Yes, this means getting very up close and personal with the enemy!
Consult with your doctor or pharmacist about what treatments, whether OTC or prescription, have more insecticides than others. Insecticide content (such as permethrin malathion, for example) is especially important to know if the user has an asthmatic condition, is pregnant or is breastfeeding. For strength, note the percentage of spinosad in the preparations: OTC Sklice has 0.5% while prescription Natroba has 0.9%. These are only two FDA-approved examples of what is available to illustrate how important it is to be an informed consumer. If you want to avoid insecticides, know that some herbal preparations may not be tested or approved by official regulators such as the FDA. Do your homework and ask questions of professionals. Follow the directions from the manufacturer, doctor or pharmacist but the topical form of treatment is for external use only.
- Place the head lice host under a very bright light or by a window with strong sunlight.
- Place a clean white or light-colored towel around the host's neck.
- With a rat-tail metal comb, begin to lift or separate the hair so you can get an unobstructed and close look at the scalp and base of the hair follicles.
- From the life stage descriptions explained earlier, determine if you are looking at eggs, nymphs or live lice. This is your guide for either prediculicida or ovicidal treatments.
- When the inspection is completed, immediately wash the towel in hot water or dispose of it in a sealed plastic bag.
Manual Treatment: Rid the NitAs the name implies, this is where you get hands-on! Brace yourself not only for the "ick" factor but also for the duration and dexterity this will require. Because head lice move around very quickly, be prepared to work the whole head in one sitting. Otherwise, it's a bit like dandelion pods drifting from one part of the lawn to another. Manual lice removal rarely takes less than an hour and often at least two hours.What You Will Need: Clean, white or light-colored towel; metal rat-tail comb (not plastic); magnifying glass; tweezers; double-sided tape; patienceWhat the Host Will Need: Engrossing book, i-pod/pad/electronic anything; video; patience
- Sit the host near a bright window or under a strong light. Drape the towel around her or his neck.
- Use the tail of the comb to lift sections of long hair or separate sections of short hair to see the nits (eggs) or grown lice hugging the base of the hair follicle or the scalp. You may need your magnifying glass for a very close inspection.
- Pick the nits or lice with your tweezers, crush them and dispose of them on the towel.
- Because adult lice are fast, you may need the double-sided tape to trap them if they are on the run.
- Focus on one section of the head at a time.
- Move as quickly and thoroughly as possible around that section to stay ahead of the lice migration.
- Once you have covered the head, go back to the first section and start again to inspect for stragglers or previously missed follicles.
- When satisfied that you have eradicated the lice, immediately wash the towel in hot water or dispose of it in a sealed plastic bag.
- Move the host quickly to the sink or shower to shampoo rigorously with a lice shampoo. Follow the instructions of the manufacturer.
Operation Search and DestroyOnce you have addressed the immediate hazard of head lice eradication, the next focus is on investigating where active off-the-head lice may still be lurking. This can happen in a methodical and logical fashion. It DOES NOT necessitate professional cleaning services (unless you prefer) or insect extermination companies. But you do have to think like a louse! If you were one, where would you expect to find your prey? Here are some tips:
- Wash in hot water and dry at high temperatures or dry clean the host's clothing and bedding. (Buying a new pillow might be a good investment.) Expand this cleaning mission to anything the host shares with anyone.
- Any articles of the above that are discarded should be placed in plastic bags and sealed.
- Vacuum or shampoo carpet in play areas or bedrooms; wash any rugs; vacuum sofas or any fabric surfaces where the host lounges, plays or his or her head touches; remove the vacuum bag and dispose of it in a sealed plastic bag. Keep in mind, however, that lice can live less than a couple of days off a head; they will not breed in furniture but during that two days first off the head, they will try to reattach.
- Wash in hot water any towels, robes, slippers or fabric shower curtains in the host's contact.
- Repeat inspection of all of the above in one week and repeat any cleaning necessary. Remember, the gestation period for nits is about six-seven days.
An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure: Lice preventionA louse, like life, sometimes just happens. But you can decrease the likelihood of infection by doing quick head checks from time to time (weekly is a good idea) and especially immediately after "close encounters." For example, just accept that you'll be doing massive laundry duty and vacuuming after any slumber parties or group sleep-overs in your home. Any time your child returns from a road trip - sports, hikes with friends, camp, scouting and so on - do your fast scalp check. Inspect sports helmet linings, foam headsets and anything your girl might attach to her hair. If you learn of infestation at your girl's school or with friends and she has long hair, pull it back in a braid or ponytail. Wash all combs and brushes weekly.
It may not do much good, but go ahead and ask your child NOT TO SHARE beanies, hoodies, scarves, headsets, earmuffs or hats.
Confession Is Good for the SoulYou may be tempted to keep lice infestation within your family. The stigma of telling others that you or you child has head lice is a big deterrent to do so. You must be brave and responsible and put your thinking in a no-guilt zone. Upon head lice detection, immediately let your and your child's friends and parents and school know your secret. Think of how grateful you would have been to be tipped off!
Pop QuizWhat do I do if I suspect head lice?
Know what you are looking for: less-than-sesame-seed sized "bumps" close to the scalp that are either yellowish-white or grayish-brown in color. Inspect the head under bright light by lifting or separating sections of the hair with a metal comb.
Where are lice most likely to hide?
Look especially closely at the crown of the head, nape of the neck or behind ears - but they can be located anywhere at the base of hair follicles, including eyebrows or eyelashes.
How did my child get lice?
Degrees of cleanliness are not the culprit. Lice do not hop or fly but can crawl from head to head. They can also be transported by shared articles of clothing (especially headgear) or in commonly used carpet or cloth furniture and bedding. Swimming pools are NOT breeding places, but shared towels and caps might be.
Did my pet give me lice?
No. Lice plague humans and feed on human blood.
What diseases do lice carry?
Lice do not transmit disease. They are a benign nuisance.
How long will lice last?
Because lice breed at escalating speeds (each female adult can spawn eight eggs a day) with one-week maturation periods, the cycle can continue for some time if not treated immediately. Each louse has a lifespan of around 30 days.
How fast can lice be eliminated?
The answer depends upon the method of treatment. Applying topical lice treatments can work the first time or may require repeated applications over time. Manual elimination may take one to three hours but can be more thorough in eradication.
Does elimination require medical attention?
Unless the case of infestation is severe, you can likely treat head lice yourself or use a professional head lice specialty service. Consulting a physician when in doubt is always a good idea.
Do I have to dispose of clothing or exterminate my house?
You do not have to professionally exterminate your house. You DO have to thoroughly clean all clothing, bedding or surfaces in contact with the host (person affected). This needs to be repeated about a week after head lice extermination.
If one member of our family has head lice, is everyone affected?
It is a good idea for every member of the family to be inspected: better safe than sorry. It is not foregone that all will be affected.
Do I have to tell anyone?
Yes, be responsible and tell your child's friends and parents and her or his school.
Where can I get more detailed information?
Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov
Roll the Dice? . . . or . . . Now that you have a better understanding of lice, their origins, their habits and their hazards, you can decide how to attack the menace. If you choose to go at it alone and to get professional help, Hair Fairies can be the one-stop solution. Eradicating lice is our only business and our salon technicians are trained to make the lice removal process efficient, effective and safe. Our lice removal salons are located in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City and Fairfield, Connecticut.
Rid the Lice: Hair Fairies Is the Safe Solution for Frantic Families
Hair Fairies' solution consists of three steps:
- Evaluate: Our specialists know what they are looking for - from nits to adult head lice. We examine the head and evaluate the best treatment based on the life stage of the lice, the condition of the scalp and the most immediate fix.
- Eliminate: Usually, picking the nits and the adult lice is the most effective action. This one-by-one removal can only be done manually. Again, our technicians know how to get this done as quickly and completely as possible. We outwit the nit! Our clients sit in comfortable, elevated treatment chairs under the best lighting for the task. Our patented combs and tools make fast work of what can be an otherwise tedious and hit-or-miss "search and seizure."
- Treat: The solution session finishes off with Hair Fairies all-natural lice shampoos and rinses. Our patented products are developed in our proprietary research laboratory in Riverside, California. Our non-toxic lie products have USDA organic certification. As such, they contain no chemical insecticides. The natural ingredients range from eucalyptus extracts to nettles, tea tree oil and more. Unlike daily-use shampoos, for example, Hair Fairies shampoos are formulated to stunt lice nervous systems as well as loosen the adhesive excretion they use to adhere to hair follicles. Our products help heal the scalp and deter immediate re-infestation.
Hair Fairies' high success rate over more than a decade qualifies our treatments to be approved for partial payment by most insurance companies and it also qualifies for most Flexible Spending Accounts.
However, if you are confident you can tackle head lice yourself, we have a "How To Treat Lice" video to help you at home. It can be purchased online at www.hairfairies.com along with our exclusive non-toxic lice treatment products.