Head louseHead lice, also known as hair lice or nits, are parasitic insects that live in human hair. They are extremely common, and yet there are many misconceptions surrounding them. The fact that they are most commonly found in the hair of young children means that it is particularly important for parents to know how to treat them. However, head lice are easily transmitted between hosts, and can affect people of any age, meaning that the following information can be of use to everybody.


It is firstly important to understand that while it is disturbing to be a host to head lice, they are relatively harmless. They feed by sucking blood through the scalp. While this is painless, a common symptom of having hair lice is an itchy head as the little creatures feed and move about. This discomfort means that you will want to get rid of head lice as soon as you find them.


An adult head louse is about the size of a sesame seed, and is therefore easily seen by the naked eye. In addition, a head lice infestation will result in eggs also being visible. The head lice eggs are attached to the root of the hair shaft to keep them warm. The baby lice will hatch after seven to ten days, and will take a further seven to ten days to mature. At this point they can lay their own eggs, so it is easy to see how your hair can very quickly become infested with the insects.


It is disturbing to think of any parasite living on our bodies, and viewing head lice pictures can further evoke feelings of disgust. As a result, it is important to know how to get rid of head lice quickly and effectively. If you discover head lice in your hair you can choose to treat them with insecticides or non-insecticides. People often distrust insecticides due to health concerns and the possibility of side effects. In addition, head lice are becoming increasingly immune to these chemicals.


It is possible to treat head lice simply by wet combing your hair, however it will be necessary to purchase a special head lice comb with finely spaced teeth. You have to firstly wash your hair with an ordinary shampoo and plenty of conditioner. If your hair is long you may need to use a standard comb to remove any tangles. After this has been done the head lice comb should be used very carefully to comb a small section of the hair from root to tip. Each time this is done all live head lice and eggs must be wiped off the comb. This process can take up to an hour depending on the length of your hair, and must be done five or six times over a two week period. If you are thorough in your combing after two weeks your hair should be free from lice.


Head lice combCredit: Thanks for the polite permission of the Community Hygiene Concern, Joanna Ibarra


Whichever treatment you use, it is important to realize that it will not prevent reinfection. Head lice are transmitted by head to head contact, and are therefore commonly passed between family members. It is a misconception that head lice are only attracted to dirty hair, or long hair. Any human hair provides a warm environment in which they can thrive. However, f you remain vigilant, know how to check for head lice, and know how to treat them, these little parasites should pose you no problems.