Head lice are a species of flightless insects that are obligate ectoparasites - they live on the tissue of select mammalian species. In the case of humans, lice will live within the hairline, feeding off skin and clinging to hair follicles. As a result of having no wings, lice cannot fly. Furthermore, lice cannot jump nor live away from a host for more than a few hours. As a result, lice are spread by hair-to-hair contact or the sharing of hair accessories. Like are not carriers of any infections diseases and represent a minor health risk to their human hosts. Lice are attracted to oil-free environments. Consequently, people who shower and wash their hair very frequently have been found to be more susceptible to lice infestations. Below are a several F.A.Q. to help you take the correct course of action regarding lice.
How are lice spread?
Lice are spread by direct contact with another person who has lice. Since lice cannot jump or fly they may only spread by hair-to-hair contact or by sharing hair accessories (combs, hats, hair elastics, headphones, ect.). Lice cannot live on normal household pets such as dogs or cats. Lice also do not move long distances very quickly, so even if someone you know has a lice infestation, avoiding the previously mentioned transmission sources will deter the spread of lice.
How do I know if I have lice?
Normally lice cause irritation of the scalp in the form of itching. However, the scalp may be itchy for several reasons. Furthermore, itching is not a universal symptom. If you suspect you or your child have lice follow the following procedure. First, locate a well lit room as lice can move quickly over short distances and are very hard to see due to their small size. When checking the scalp focus at the bottom of the neck and behind the ears. When probing through the hair, part small section moving in one direction with your focus on the scalp. If you suspect your child has lice but weren't able to find it the first look, check again in a week.
Are lice dangerous to my health?
No, lice are not dangerous to your health as they only eat dead skin cells. Furthermore, lice do not transmit any infectious diseases to humans. Their only negative health related side-effect is a possibly itchy scalp. Regardless, it is recommended that lice infestations are treated to prevent the spread of lice to other people. If your child has lice, they should not be prevented from attending school. Your child should be made to understand that hair-to-hair contact is inappropriate and that sharing of hair products is forbidden.
How do I get rid of lice?
There are numerous medical head lice shampoos on the market. These shampoos contain insecticides that are government approved to safely treat head lice infestations without a prescription. The three insecticides are pyrethrin, permethrin, and lindane. The first two are safe for human use, however, lindane can be toxic and should not be used on children younger than 2 years of age. Be sure to follow the shampoo directions carefully.
There exist several home remedies for eliminating lice infestations. Soaking the hair with olive oil is a particularly popular method. Additional methods include: mayonnaise, vinegar, margarine, and petroleum jelly. These methods try to suffocate the lice and have mixed success. Another home remedy involves combing with a fine tooth come. This has a low chance of success because lice have extremely strong pincers that allow them to cling to hair follicles. Numerous tea tree or aromatherapy products have been advertised to remove lice, however, little proof has ever been obtained. An extremely dangerous lice removal home remedy is to use gasoline or kerosene. This should NEVER be done as gasoline and kerosene are extremely dangerous petrochemicals.
If someone has head lice should the home be disinfected?
Minimal cleaning is required if an individual in your home has lice since they do not live for prolonged times away from human hosts. It is recommended that items that came in contact with infested hair should be washed it hot water and they dried in a hot dryer. If this is not possible you may seal these items in an airtight bag for two weeks. Since pets cannot carry lice there is no need to treat them with special shampoos.
How can I prevent lice?
To prevent lice contact with stranger's hair should be avoided. While adults can easily avoid lice, young children are prone to lice infestations. Teach your child to prevent hair-to-hair contact and to not share hair products, hats, headphones, ect.
Do I need to call a pest control expert if someone has head lice?
Generally, head lice infestations are a health concern. Since lice cannot live away from their human hosts for more than a few hours, pest control is not needed. However, if you believe the infestation is spreading outside the normal lice transmission channels you may not have a head lice problem. If you are unsure of the infestation in your home Nimby Pest Management can quickly provide identification of your pest problem.
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