First it's just one case, then two cases, then three, and before you know it the whole class is affected. Parents are well aware of this infestation problem, which appears as soon as the school year starts. We often think that regular shampooing will help to get rid of them but they still lurk firmly attached in our hair, almost invisible to the naked eye.
Catching lice is very common. It’s a problem that affects all of us. More than 100 million people per year, or 3 people per second, catch lice. Those most affected are children between 3 and 11 years old.
Contrary to popular belief, the presence of lice has nothing to do with hygiene, as they are transmitted by direct contact from hair to hair, when playing games, hugging other or sharing clothes or personal objects.
Lice are 6-legged, wingless, blood-sucking insects (that are hematophagous in all stages). They need one blood feed per day and can only survive for 2 to 3 days without a meal. There are 2 subspecies: Pediculus humanus capitis (head louse) and Pediculus humanus corporis (body louse). Head lice are human ectoparasites (external). They cannot fly or jump, but they can crawl very fast. Ranging from two to four millimetres in size when fully grown, the female is larger than the male. Lice live for 3 to 4 weeks on the human scalp without treatment. The larva looks similar to the adult but is smaller. Female lice can lay up to 10 nits per day and 300 nits during their lifetime. Nits are 1 mm long and stick to strands of hair.
Close contact and communal living encourage the spread of lice. Schools are just one place where lice can be found, but there are many others. Cinemas or public transport are also places where you can easily catch lice, and for good reason: head lice tend to fall out of the hair when they are fully grown. If they land on a seat, the only thing they have to do is wait for their next victim to colonise. Head lice cannot survive more than 2 to 3 days without human blood. An infested human head can contain up to 20 adult lice, which equals a lot of pests in the surrounding environment.
The main symptom of a head lice infestation is intense itching of the scalp. The itching is predominantly behind the ears and at the back of the neck. This is a result of the lice sucking blood from the scalp in order to feed and the injection of their saliva causes this itching. These bites can also cause small red spots on the scalp, but it's possible to have lice without itching. There are therefore other symptoms to look out for.
If you suspect the presence of lice, you should immediately check the base of the hair for the presence of any lice and/or their nits, which appear as tiny, whitish eggs. This is where the nits develop, due to the heat and humidity.
First of all, when an infestation is detected, a thorough check of the hair is essential, with the naked eye or using a magnifying glass if necessary. Targeting the problem and acting as quickly as possibly will prevent female lice from laying their eggs, which can number around 10 per day.
The most radical and natural method is to remove the nits and lice by pulling on the hair, strand by strand, with your thumb and forefinger. Fine combs are available for this purpose. They usually go hand in hand with antiparasitic treatments for the scalp.
Since lice pass from one person's hair to another through direct contact, it's essential to adopt preventative measures to avoid their proliferation, such as tying up long hair while infested, not wearing hats, helmets, scarves, coats, bath linen and any other clothing that comes into contact with the hair.
As for chemical treatments, various products are available but they are not always effective, as lice are becoming increasingly resistant to them. Moreover, these treatments are toxic, especially for children. Care should be taken when using these treatments to avoid unnecessary exposure and reduce skin contact other than on the scalp. Insecticides can also cause a rash, itching or a slight burning sensation on the scalp.
Natural remedies such as mayonnaise, petroleum jelly, olive oil mixed with white vinegar, margarine, essential oils and thick hair gel do not kill lice or nits. They simply make it easier for nits and adult lice to fall out of the hair, as they have difficulty breathing because of these products. However, no studies have been published to prove their effectiveness.
Examining the hair thoroughly and making sure that the nits are gone is a good start. However, you must also clean all objects and fabrics that have been in close or prolonged contact with the head (pillowcases, sheets, cuddly toys, hats, coats, sheets, headrests, sofas, etc.).
Here are the different options for eliminating both lice and nits, depending on what you want to treat:
Steam is a quick, easy and very effective solution. According to a university study, Laurastar DMS kills 100% of lice in all stages of development (nits, nymphs and adults) in 5 seconds. Laurastar DMS is a great way to prevent and eliminate infestations of pests such as lice. Daily use on bedding, cushions, sofas, carpets, armchairs and clothing that comes into contact with hair will keep the pests at bay.
Lice are now inextricably linked to human life and have become perfectly adapted to people over time. The good news is that there are effective methods for getting rid of them. You just need to be rigorous and patient.
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