Head lice in children: what they are, how to recognize them, remedies and prevention

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Catherine Le Nevez
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Head lice in children

The school has recently started, the children have already resumed the classic routine and these nasty pests have already made their appearance: lice. We have collected in a special guide, everything you need to know about lice in children, from natural remedies to treatments to be done to eliminate them permanently, to ways to prevent them.





In this article

  • What are head lice?
  • Lice, how to recognize them
  • Things to do right away if your child has head lice
  • How to remove nits
  • Children's lice videos
  • How to get rid of head lice
  • Natural remedies for lice

What are head lice?

I lice they are small insects that infest the scalp. According to the doctor Daniela Pisacane, dermatologist at the Santagostino Medical Center in our city, interviewed by MyModernParents.com, lice are an infestation that spreads by contact and is not a consequence of poor hygiene.



10 PHOTOS

10 myths about head lice

go to the gallery

Not even these nasty parasites are saved from fake news: false beliefs about the conditions that favor or hinder them and about their real danger. Let's debunk the most ...



Lice, how to recognize them

Head lice infest the heads of babies and appear resistant to any attempt to prevent their unwelcome arrival.

In general, every time the child scratches his head, it is necessary to check for lice. Usually the most infested spots are the nape of the neck and the hairline behind the ears.

First of all it is worth knowing that the The life cycle of the louse occurs through three stages and lasts for a month. It starts from the egg (also called nit), which hatches and gives rise to the nymphs, immature forms of the adult parasite. The nymph is small and reddish, while the adult louse is dark and 2-4 mm long.

The adult louse lays eggs which then hatch after 8-10 days. Here are some tips, developed with the help of the Milanese dermatologist Marcello Monti, interviewed by MyModernParents.com on the matter, to understand if your child actually has lice and, consequently, to fight them.

  1. As already mentioned, the itch caused by lice is not causborn from dirt, but froman insect bites. Indeed, the cleaner the hair, the more likely it is that the lice will be able to deposit their eggs at the root of the same.
  2. The parasite survives a month on a person's head, but no more than 48 hours in the external environment. Eggs are unable to mature and hatch if they are not kept at a temperature similar to that of human skin. This means that the parasite is very unlikely to get to a child's head by passing through the environment.
  3. Head lice lay eggs at the root of the hair and especially on the nape, behind the ears and at the root of the bangs. It is often difficult to see the adult insect: on the other hand, the eggs are very numerous, which have a translucent white or dark brown appearance and are adhered to the base of the hair.
  4. One warning sign for parents is itching. Every time the child scratches his head it is necessary to check if there are no lice.
  5. Another symptom that needs to be checked is the presence of redness and scratches from scratching in the infested spots., i.e. the nape of the neck and the hairline behind the ears.

Lice or dandruff?

The louse lays about ten eggs per day on the scalp: this is a total of three hundred eggs in its life cycle. The eggs adhere tenaciously to the base of the hair by means of a particular substance secreted by the female louse. But, while the dandruff comes away in an easy way with a brushing or passing the hair between the fingers, the eggs instead they don't move.

How to prevent head lice?

There are no preventative strategies to protect yourself from lice: the only thing to do is to check your baby's hair well to check if the annoying parasites have arrived. Only in this case we intervene with a specific treatment.

Things to do right away if your child has head lice

The child has lice: what to do? What not to do? What are the most useful and fastest tricks? And the harmful ones? Do Natural Remedies Work? 25 things to do NOW if you find your child has head lice.

25 PHOTOS

Head lice: 25 things to DO NOW if your child has them

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The child has lice: what to do? What not to do? What are the most useful and fastest tricks? And the harmful ones? Do Natural Remedies Work? 25 things to do NOW if you find that your ...

How to remove nits

La removal of nits, that is the eggs, is essential for the success of the treatment to eliminate lice. First you need to get a fine-toothed comb and divide the wet hair into small strands. Then you pass and remove the eggs. You can help yourself with some conditioner.

The most effective method of eliminating head lice is the comb that you buy at the pharmacy. In particular, a liquid conditioner must be applied to damp hair and then it is necessary to pass the special comb with fine teeth, strand by strand, from roots to ends. It is advisable to repeat the treatment every two days for a total period of 10.

Here, in particular, are some practical tips to optimize the procedure for removing nits:

  1. Divide the wet hair into small sections.

  2. Pass the comb over the lock from the base of the hair to the tip with a single continuous gesture.

  3. Perform the same movement in the opposite direction, from the ends of the hair towards the base to eliminate any residual eggs.

  4. Clean the comb with a tissue every time the gesture is repeated.

  5. Dry your hair with a hot hair dryer, because the parasite is sensitive to heat.

Children's lice videos

How to get rid of head lice

How to get rid of head lice? THE vinegar washes they do not eliminate adult lice, although some rinsing can be useful because its acid ph causes the eggs to detach from the hair shaft.

There is also the popular belief that only the hot hair dryer kills nits: it is not true. Sure, as mentioned earlier, these are sensitive to heat, but eggs have a tough shell and don't die easily.

I insecticidal products (shampoos, foams, creams) with low toxicity, based on permethrin, often prove useless as the lice have developed resistance to them. Instead, those with malathion are effective, but are not recommended because, if used incorrectly (just do not follow the warnings carefully), they become dangerous. So get advice from your pediatrician to start an effective treatment to get rid of lice. 

Head lice treatment

According to the guidelines of the British "National Health Service", it is also advisable to do a prophylactic treatment in all colors sleeping with a person infested with lice. The treatment it must be done simultaneously: in fact, if the child is treated immediately, and the rest of the family instead 24 hours later, the procedure may be ineffective.

In addition, a second treatment after a week since no product is 100 percent oocide. It is also very important to eliminate the eggs with the special comb that can be purchased at the pharmacy, whose teeth must be at a distance of less than 0,3 mm. Only mechanical removal of the eggs can guarantee complete eradication.

We must not limit ourselves to treating only the person, but it is necessary to remove any eggs from clothing and furnishings that have come into contact with the head in the 48 hours preceding the discovery of the lice. So, collect everything and machine washed at 60 ° C, as louse eggs are killed by exposure to temperatures above 55 ° C for five minutes. Dry cleaning is also a good alternative. Brushes and combs must be washed in very hot water.

If you can't wash the items right away, you can close them in a plastic bag and leave them like this for two weeks, to make the lice die.

Finally, try to vacuum on carpets and sofas to vacuum up any hair.

Products to eliminate lice

In general, permethrin, natural pyrethrins and malathion (the three most common active ingredients with insecticide action) can be considered effective in the same way against adult parasites, while pyrethrins seem slightly more effective than the others against eggs.

Malathion is not indicated for children under 6 years of age. It is important to underline that none of the studies carried out on these products have used the shampoo formulation, which is the least effective because the active ingredient is diluted by water and because the processing time is reduced.

Finally, the use of formulations in gel, spray or heat-sensitive mousse, since they melt with the heat of the head and are able to distribute uniformly along the entire shaft but, in particular, in the vicinity of the scalp, where the nits are present.

Lice photos

In this gallery the photos that help us recognize lice

10 PHOTOS

Head lice photos: how to recognize them

go to the gallery

Lice are small insects that infest the scalp of adults but especially of children and seem resistant to any attempt to prevent their arrival. How...

What to do if a classmate has head lice

In general, according to Chiara Cappelli, head of the prevention and health promotion service in the ASL communities of our city, it is necessary to carefully check the head approximately every 10-15 days in children who go to kindergarten, school or attend other communities, for example sports groups.

However, if we know that cases of pediculosis are already reported in the community, it is better to be even more careful and check more often, even every day. And for safety, any brothers and sisters of the child who has a partner with pediculosis should also be carefully checked.

Certainly, however, i children should not be treated with a carpet, just because some mates have lice. As we said, there are no preventative products: there is nothing that can keep pests away

As for the treatments, which are nothing more than insecticides, they must be done only if there is a diagnosis of infestation, that is, only if they have actually been seen, on the hair, lice or nits ", said Cappelli, adding that this also applies" even when the contact with the infested baby was particularly close, for example if they are schoolmates

False myths about head lice

There are some myths about head lice that need to be debunked, as they are not true and confuse by slowing down the elimination of these annoying parasites. Here's what they are:

  1. Head lice prefer blond hair. It's not true. Lice have no color preference: they attach themselves indifferently to light, dark, red hair.
  2. Head lice prefer long hair. This is also not true: they have no style preferences. Obviously, however, in the event of an infestation, short hair makes treatment easier.
  3. Dogs and cats can transmit lice. There is no evidence that pets can have and transmit lice. They are the prerogative of human beings.
  4. Head lice transmit diseases. As annoying and ugly as they may be, it is good to know that they are not the vehicle for particular diseases.
  5. Lice jump. False: for the contagion, direct contact with an infested head is required, or with objects that are themselves infested (hats, brushes, etc.).
  6. Water sports help eliminate head lice. It is not true: these little animals can resist submerged in water for several hours.
Read also: Pediculosis: everything you need to know

Natural remedies for lice

There is a lot of information that should be known about pediculosis: among these we must also mention i home remedies, which, however, are often not substitutes for specific drugs. Let's see these too.

  1. Useful apple cider vinegar. It does not kill and does not keep lice away, but it helps the removal of the eggs through the special combs, destroying the adhesive substance that surrounds them (especially that of apples). Do not use pure vinegar on the scalp, but wash your head by diluting it in water.
  2. Balm useful as a trap. Balm and nourishing creams immobilize the lice making it easier to remove them along with the eggs. Use a sufficient dose of product according to the length of the hair and with clips / pins divide the hair into sections. Pass the comb several times, especially near the scalp.
  3. Olive, seed or flax mix: in addition to nourishing and making the hair shiny, they are a good remedy for killing lice. Prepare a cup of oil with 4-5 drops of thyme essential oil, 4 drops of tea tree oil and 3 more of lavender essential oil. Mix and spread on the hair. Wrap in a cap / film and keep on for 2 hours. Wash and use a conditioner to help eliminate dead lice and eggs. Repeat after seven days.
  4. Mayonnaise - an effective remedy. Grandma's remedy seems to work with a double action: its consistency blocks the lice from moving and the vinegar present destroys the sticky substance that holds the nits attached to the hair. To make the mayonnaise softer and easier to spread, add a teaspoon of vinegar. Cover with a cap / film and keep on for 2 hours. Wash several times with shampoo until completely clean.

References

NHS

Santagostino Medical Center

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  • head lice
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