Head lice

Head lice

Chris Schach

Author Bio -

Key Points
*Very common skin condition affecting the scalp
*Caused by an infestation of small insects which nest in the hair
*Persons from any gender, ethnic or age group may develop an infestation
*Consists primarily of itching and irritation of the scalp, with crusting, sores and secondary infection possible due scratching

Head lice is a very common condition in which the scalp and hair are infested with small, biting insects, the head louse. The primary symptom is itching and irritation of the scalp, which presents up to several weeks after the initial infestation. The itching and irritation are the result of the lice feeding on the scalp, which can occur up to five times per day, per louse. Typically there are approximately a dozen lice active at any time during an infestation. The lice will also lay eggs on the shaft of the hair, close to the scalp, which hatch in approximately 8 days. Lice will fully mature in 10 days. When and if breeding occurs, females may lay up to six eggs per day.

Contrary to popular belief, head lice infestations and their likelihood are not affected by hygiene or other factors. Persons from any gender, age, or ethnic group may develop and infestation. While the insects do not fly or jump, but in close proximity can move between persons quite easily, spreading the infestation.

Diagnosis
Key Points
*Diagnosis based on close examination of the affected area

Diagnosis of Head Lice is based on close examination of the affected area, inspecting for both living Lice and eggs attached to the hair shaft.

Treatment
*Most infestations are treated at home
*Goal of treatment is the elimination of Lice and removal of eggs to prevent continuing infestation
*Treatment typically consists of a combination of chemical and physical removal
*Proper measures should be taken during an infestation to prevent its spread
OTC Options: Chemical Shampoos, creams, and liquids, nit combs

Most infestations of head lice are treated at home with OTC treatments such as chemical agents and physical removal devices, such as nit combs. Chemical agents are typically insecticide based, and the most effective tend to be creams and liquid compounds. Common insecticides used in these preparations include pyrethrum/pyrethrin/phenothrin, Permethrin, and organophosphates. After proper treatment with a chemical agent, use of a nit comb is recommended to remove both viable and dead or hatched eggs from the hair. In severe or persistent infestations, shortening the hair can assist in resolving the condition. Other treatments such as Antibiotics, suffocating agents, and natural oils are sometimes used in home treatment, but the validity of these treatments is not known

It is imperative that proper measures be taken to ensure a reinfestation does not occur after treatment. These measures may include regular scalp examination, repeated treatment as necessary, washing of all linens in hot water, and treating other items which may have come in contact with the affected person to rid them of insects or eggs.

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