Urgh. That letter from the school
Head lice infestations have become an all-year phenomenon. Elize van der Berg, a pharmacist and CEO of Nativa, says that except for the common cold, head lice infestation is considered the most common communicable childhood disease.
“We are even seeing mothers treating their primary school children preventatively because outbreaks are so frequent,” says Elize.
Head-to-head is by far the most common way of transmitting lice, which is why they spread easily among younger children whose play lends itself to this kind of contact. Infestation can occur through sharing of hats, combs, other items of clothing and towels. (During the summer swimming season, sharing of swimming towels spreads infestation.)
Does my child have lice?
"If your child complains of an itching head, lice may be the problem," says Elize. "To make sure, use a fine tooth comb and comb through the hair onto a tissue.
"An adult louse is about the size of a sesame see. A magnifying glass such as at the end of the special Controlice comb makes this procedure easier,” she adds.
They favour the nape of the neck and the area behind the ears where they usually lay their eggs, so this is where you should check for signs of infestation.
Many head lice infections cause no symptoms, so it is better to look for head lice than to rely on itching and scratching of the scalp.
Treating head lice
Elize says that eliminating nits and lice can be simple, pleasant and effective with a natural remedy like Controlice Hair Hygiene (right). Available from pharmacies a bottle gives 2 to 4 treatments, depending on the length of the hair.
The precision engineered Controlice lice comb with magnifying glass and is 4 times more effective in screening for lice than a visual examination. Combing out the lice and nits is an important part of the treatment process.
- Spray treatment onto dry hair from a distance of about 15cm towards the scalp.
- Work it through the hair with your hands so the entire head of hair is moistened enough to glisten and feel slick. Wait 15 minutes.
- Wash it out with any shampoo.
- De-tangle the hair with any comb.
- Use a specially designed lice comb to remove the nits (eggs) and dead lice.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: Repeat the treatment after 7 days in case any live eggs have been missed so that you break the life cycle.
The headlice family history
Female lice lay small yellowish-white eggs (nits). The nits are oval-shaped and are "glued" at angles to the sides of the hair shafts. After being hatched the female louse is ready to mate in 7 to 10 days and will then start laying her nits in another 7 to 10 days. A female louse can lay up to 100 nits in her approximately 30-day lifespan.
Head lice are only spread by close contact. They normally don't leave their human hosts. If separated from their hosts, they die from starvation in approximately 24-48 hours. They spend their entire lives in human hair, dropping down to feed on blood from the scalp 4 or 5 times a day.
There is evidence that head lice prefer clean hair, so their presence does not indicate poor hygiene. Nor do they have a preference for long hair, so it is not necessary to cut long hair but rather keep it plaited and tied up.
Unfortunately swimming, normal bathing and shampooing don’t prevent or eliminate head lice problems either.
Apart from killing and combing out the head lice and nits, it also helps to:
- Wash bed linen and swimming towels and dry on high heat in a dryer.
- Sanitise hair brushes, combs and hair ties at least once a week.
- Check coat collars, hoods, hats and scarves for lice and nits.
Nativa offers an English and Afrikaans booklet giving the low down on head lice. Contact Nativa on 012 664 7110 or email@example.com or visit www.nativa.co.za.