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Head Lice Treatment

I can go into any daycare/grade school in America and find head lice, body lice, or pinworms in 2 % of the children.  They have their social diseases and we have ours... at least theirs is treatable.  Don't be embarrassed when you find they have it. By the time the parent finds out they have it then they have already given them to several other children.  Head lice itch like crazy and when grown they look like brown small things that look like fleas on a dog.  Then they lay their eggs in what is called nits that are small white cylindrical things about 1/2 to 1 inch from the scalp on the hair shaft.  It is stuck on the hair with the strongest glue known to man.  If the white thing pulls off easily, then it is dandruff and not lice.  If your child is scratching all the time the back of their head/neck, then think head lice.  These are spread very easily.  Sharing hats or combs or brushes.  Even when they brush their hair the small lice are sprayed out 3 feet away.

There are head lice shampoos and rinses like Nix but the bugs are becoming resistant to them. You can also treat the live lice by removing them by putting a conditioner rinse on the hair and comb the hair with a fine tooth comb or nit comb.  That will remove physically the lice off the hair and down the drain with the conditioner.  Then rinse the hair well.  Repeat twice a week for 2-3 weeks.  This only kills live bugs and not the eggs.  So you have to repeat to kill ones that hatch. 

The other way to treat the live bugs is to smother them.  Studies have used olive oil, Vaseline, Mayonnaise, and recently Cetaphil lotion.  Soak the hair down to the scalp with the oil with a showercap on or the Cetaphil lotion and leave over night.  Then wash off in the morning.  Repeat this once a week for 3 weeks.  This only kills live bugs and not the eggs.  So you have to repeat to kill ones that hatch.

Recently a study with hair dryers showed it killed 55% live lice and 97% eggs.  If you used their hot air blower with twice the air volume and less heat then it killed 80% of live lice.  They used the regular hand hair dryer.  The hair was divided into 20 sections and the hair dryer was used on the hair/scalp for 30 seconds on each side of the area with a steady hold and no motion.  The whole process took 30 minutes.  There was more killing of the lice if the wind velocity was increased and a plastic "comb" lifted the hair to get the hot wind into the scalp better.

You could do a combination of the above treatments..... conditioner with combing, Hair Dryer, oil over night, and then put the Nix rinse on it.  Then do that routine twice a week for several weeks.

Good luck.

Dr. Knapp

Addendum:

Controversy continues about the mode transmission of head lice. The disagreement concerns the role of fomite transmission as there has been little experimental data on this question (a reminder: a fomite is an object that can harbor a pathogenic organism). Data seem to now show that transmission of head lice can occur with transfer of adult lice during the nymphal (baby) or instar (teenager) stages of development or by means of their eggs. The average human host carries a population of just about 20 head lice.  Female head lice during their 30-day life have been demonstrated to lay a total 2652 eggs.  Nature has allowed the female louse to store sperm in a spermatotheca, so that a single mating is all that is required for the entire lifetime of fertility of a female louse. This would seemingly be nature's adaptation to aid in the dispersion of the species, a single female louse can start a whole new population of lice. To account for the sheer number of lice that hatch from one female louse versus the average only 20 lice per infected human scalp, many nymphs must be taking chances of survival by falling off the host to sites besides their original niche.  Both nymphal and adult lice can survive up to 3 days away from a host. Nits can Survive for 10 days.  Any lice thus landing on head wear, shared baseball helmets­, brushes, combs, earphones, bedding, upholstered furniture, and rugs have ample time to find a new home/host. A single hair-strand lightly touching louse is sufficient for transfer of a head louse from an inanimate object to another person's hair. 

So, the question is, can you get head lice from your bedding or from another person that you are not in direct contact with? The answer requires some knowledge of aerodynamics. Under natural conditions, head lice can travel on an object such as a hair, at a rate of 23 cm/minute. Lice are fastest in their period of life as instar nymphs and young adults. In fact, it has been shown that once in one's hair can move rapidly away from any perceived peril, which would come in the form of an offensive odor, light, or agitation of hair. This defensive strategy assists them in avoiding detection and can place the louse in a position from which it could transfer from the host's hair. This transfer response as been designated as the "Flea" (not flee) response, in which the louse transverses to the periphery of a hair follicle unit ready to drop off if there is a serious perceived danger warranting evacuation. Thus lice may readily drop off of a hair. The real question, however, is whether a louse can jump or fly in order to achieve head-to-head contact, and the   answer is: maybe yes, maybe no. Lice absolutely do not possess the anatomy for jumping or flying. Nonetheless, combing has been shown by photography to build up enough static elec­tricity to physically eject an adult louse from an infested scalp over a distance of 3 feet.  Furthermore, nymphs are about one third the size of an adult louse, and it has been suggested that they can be blown about in the air.  Additionally, lice have been seen in appropriate conditions crawling along on an infested host’s pillow and on towels after shampooing.  Now that is more than you ever wanted to know and just enough information to make us very paranoid.