head lice, Know the facts...

What are head lice?
Who can get head lice?
Isn’t it true only dirty people get head lice?
What are the signs and symptoms of head lice?
Where are head lice most commonly found?

How do I know if my child or I have head lice?
What do head lice look like?

Misdiagnosis

 

What are head lice?
Pediculus Humanus Capitals, or head lice as they are more commonly known, are tiny parasitic insects that feed off human blood and develop on your scalp. Having head lice is very common, in fact 6-12 million people get head lice every year.

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Who can get head lice?
No one is immune to head lice; anyone who is exposed to someone who already has the parasite is at greatest risk. Pre-school and elementary age school children, 3-11, and their families are typically the most at risk. Girls get head lice more often than boys, women more than men. Head lice can be transferred in clothing such as hats, scarves, and coats and personal items like hairbrushes and towels.

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Isn’t it true only dirty people get head lice?
 This is a common misconception, in fact personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school have nothing to do with getting head lice.

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What are the signs and symptoms of head lice?
-Tickling feeling of something moving in the hair and on the head
-Itching, caused by an allergic reaction to the bites.
-Irritability.
-Sores on the head caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected

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Where are head lice most commonly found?
On the scalp behind the ears and near the neckline at the back of the neck, Head lice hold on to hair with hook-like claws found at the end of each of their six legs. Head lice are rarely found on the body, eyelashes, or eyebrows.

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How do I know if my child or I have head lice?
Head lice are often difficult to find.  An infestation is diagnosed by looking closely through the hair and scalp for nits, nymphs, or adults.

  1. Finding a nymph or adult may be challenging; there are usually few of them and they can move quickly from searching fingers.
  2. If crawling lice are not seen, finding nits within a 1/4 inch of the scalp only means that there may have been louse there.
  3. If you only find nits more than 1/4 inch from the scalp (and don't see a nymph or adult louse), the infestation is probably an old one and does not need to be treated.
  4. If you are not sure if a person has head lice, the diagnosis should be made by your health care provider, school nurse, or a professional from the health department.


Symptoms such as an itchy scalp, eczema, dandruff, or allergic reactions to hair products are sometimes misdiagnose as lice.    A positive diagnosis of an active case of head lice can only be made if you find live lice. Nits can remain on the hair for months but do not indicate an active infestation.

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What do head lice look like?

There are three forms of lice: the egg (also called a nit), the nymph, and the adult. Nit:

  1. Nits are head lice eggs. They are hard to see and are often confused for dandruff or hair spray droplets. Nits are found firmly attached to the hair shaft. They are oval and usually yellow to white. Nits take about 1 week to hatch.
  2. Nymph: The nit hatches into a baby louse called a nymph. It looks like an adult head louse, but is smaller. Nymphs mature into adults about 7 days after hatching. To live, the nymph must feed on blood.
  3. Adult: The adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed, has six legs, and is tan to grayish-white. In persons with dark hair, the adult louse will look darker. Females lay nits; they are usually larger than males. Adult lice can live up to 30 days on a person's head. To live, adult lice need to feed on blood. If the louse falls off a person, it dies within 2 days average.

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Misdiagnosis

Often dandruff , dry skin and or flaking is sometimes confused for lice. Be sure that it's not a skin condition as described above and when in doubt always seek the advise of a medical or hair professional that has been trained in the proper way to check and make that determination.

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