What is Head Lice?
Head lice are mites, parasites, that live on the human scalp. They are usually transmitted by direct contact with the hair of an infected person or due to other factors that we will discuss later in this article. They are slightly bigger than a sesame seed. They can easily survive by consuming blood from the scalp.
They feed on the scalp by biting and sucking blood from the host's bleeding tissues. The adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed (1 mm or 0.04 in). Its six legs are of different lengths, and it has an elongated body.
They are most commonly found among children who play close head-to-head games or have close, frequent head-to-head contacts such as those in the same family or class.
What are the Causes of Head Lice?
Lice are contagious and can crawl onto your head if you touch your head to the head of someone with head lice or share personal grooming items like a comb with someone with head lice. It is also possible for lice to live for a short time on upholstered furniture, towels, clothes, bedding, etc.
A louse usually goes through three stages namely, eggs, nymphs, and adult lice. Eggs hatch after 6-9 days and nymphs are the immature forms of louse that become mature adults after 9-12 days. An adult louse can live for 3-4 weeks.
What are the Symptoms of Head Lice?
Some common symptoms of head lice can include itching on the scalp, neck, and ears. This is an allergic reaction to louse bites. Head lice are visible to the naked eye but are difficult to spot because they are small and move quickly.
Lice eggs, also known as nits, stick to the hair shafts and can be spotted around the neck, ears, and hairline. Empty nits may be easier to spot as they are lighter in color and further from the scalp. Excess scratching can sometimes lead to red bumps on the scalp which may get infected with bacteria.
Home Remedies for Lice
There are many OTC medications and other treatments available to get rid of head lice but if you do not have a serious head lice infection, you can try out some home remedies to prevent and cure head lice naturally at home.
Wash your clothes and bedding in hot water and dry them on high heat. Soak brushes, combs, washable headbands, and other hair accessories in hot water every once in a while for 5-10 minutes to get rid of dirt, grime, and other residues that might be stuck on them. Vacuum your floors and upholstered furniture and keep them clean.
Essential oils have been quite effective in eliminating head lice but they should be accompanied with combing for better results. Always dilute essential oils with carrier oils and take a patch test before applying to your scalp. This will ensure that your scalp stays healthy and free from infections.
Tea tree oil, lavender oil, clove oil, neem oil, cinnamon leaf oil, peppermint oil, aniseed oil, eucalyptus oil, and nutmeg oil are some of the most widely used home remedies for treating head lice.
Mix two tablespoons of olive oil with 10 drops of essential oil and apply this mixture to your scalp using a cotton ball. Leave it on overnight and shampoo your hair the next day.
Lemon has antibacterial and antifungal properties that can be used along with garlic cloves to get rid of head lice. Mix a fine paste of four garlic cloves with one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and apply this mixture to your scalp. Leave it on for half an hour and then rinse it off using either vinegar or lukewarm water. This is one of the easiest ways to get rid of head lice using lemon.
Other home remedies include applying vinegar, mayonnaise, petroleum jelly, butter, alcohol, etc. These remedies do not eliminate the infestation as they do not kill all of the eggs.
Hair removal can help you in getting rid of head lice completely but this is not a convenient choice for everyone. But if you consider doing it, make sure to apply eggs and other preventive home remedies on your scalp to prevent the growth of head lice.
A device that uses hot air to kill the lice is also approved by FDA but as of now, there are no published studies to prove the efficacy of this device.
Head lice are wingless insects that survive on the blood of humans and animals. Head lice are greyish-white or black, wingless insects that feed on blood and generally will live on the scalp of a human host.
There is no way to prevent head lice completely but you can take precautionary measures like not sharing hats or head coverings. Keep checking your hair for eggs or adult lice every once in a while, but we recommend not treating your scalp unless you are sure of developing head lice.
Avoid using extra amounts of any recommended or prescribed dose of lice medications to treat the head lice ‘faster’. An excessive dosage of head lice medications can cause severe side effects.