What are they?
Head lice (singular: louse) are small insects that live on the scalp. They are not easy to see. They occur commonly in children and they spread from one person to another usually through head-to-head contact lasting for about half a minute.
Having head lice doesn’t mean one’s hair is dirty. They can be found on both clean and dirty hair. Head lice don’t survive for very long away from the scalp so it is quite unlikely to get them from sharing hats or pillows.
How do I know if I have head lice?
Sometimes they make your head itch. But the only way to know that you have head lice is to find a live louse in your hair.
A fully grown head louse is flat and about the size of a mustard seed. They are wingless and usually greyish-brown in colour. They can be found while combing the hair.
What treatments work?
Head lice can be gotten rid of either manually or chemically. The former involves simply combing them out. Combs with very fine teeth can pick out these lice when used on wet hair with conditioner. This usually needs to be done every two to three days for a couple of weeks during which all lice should have gone.
Chemical treatment uses insecticides and occlusive chemicals which kill the lice. Insecticides poison the lice. Different insecticides have different instructions on how to use them, so be sure to follow these carefully. Insecticides are not suitable for young children. The head lice may become resistant to the chemicals after a while, and so a different treatment may be needed.
Occlusive chemicals like Dimeticone may also be used to cover the lice up and kill them. It kills the lice by coating them so water can’t get in or out of their bodies. Head lice are less likely to be resistant to it. Read the instruction leaflet on how to use them.
What will happen?
Head lice are rarely a serious problem, but if they are not treated, they can get worse as the lice breed and spread to other people. So they must never be ignored.