Have you been suffering from constant itching lately? Have you been noticing crawling sensations on your scalp or neck? If so, then you may be suffering from an infection known as lice. Lice are tiny insects that feed off of human blood. They can infest your scalp and the back of your neck, laying eggs and causing uncomfortable symptoms. A very common infection, it is important to seek out lice treatment as soon as possible, because it is highly contagious. Effective lice treatment is available from your health care provider.
What Are Lice?
Hair lice are tiny, parasitic insects that can infect the hair on your scalp and neck. Adult lice are approximately the size of a sesame seed, and tend to be tan or brown in color. They attach on to your hairs using three pairs of tiny claws, and feed off of your blood for nutrition. Female lice lay eggs, known as nits, which look like tiny sacs. These head lice nits are stuck on to individual hair follicles, typically near the top of the scalp, and take about five to seven days to hatch. The resulting baby lice, known as nymphs, soon develop into adult lice, laying their own nits and perpetuating the infestation.
How to You Contract Lice?
Lice are actually a relatively easy infection to catch, particularly if you are living with someone who is already infected. Infection can occur through direct contacted with an infected person. The most common method of transmission in through head-to-head contact; however, you can also get head lice by sharing:
- infected clothing
- infected bedding
- infected towels
- infected hats, hairbrushes, and hair ties
Who’s at Risk for Head Lice?
Anyone, no matter what their age, sex, or race, can contract head lice. However, certain factors do increase your risk of developing the infection. Risk factors include:
- living with an infected person
- regularly sharing hair accessories
- living in crowded conditions (such as in a hospital, care facility, or dormitory)
Children between the ages of 3 and 12 are the most at risk for contracting lice. This is generally due to the fact that they spend a lot of time in close quarters with other children. Women are also at increased risk for lice, because they are more likely to share infected hair accessories.
What are the Symptoms of Lice
Head lice symptoms can be extremely unpleasant to have to deal with. Symptoms generally include severe itching of the scalp and neck. You may also experience crawling sensations beneath your hair. This is generally caused by movement of the adult lice. In most lice infections it is possible to see live lice moving around amongst the hair follicles. If you look closely at the roots of you hair, you may also see the lice eggs stuck to the shafts.
Treating Head Lice
In order to stop the life cycle of the lice, it is necessary to get appropriate head lice treatment. And because hair lice are contagious, it is important to get treated as soon as possible. The main method of getting rid of hair lice involves washing your hair with a medicated shampoo. These lice shampoos are available at your local pharmacy and from your health care provider. It is necessary to follow the directions on the bottle exactly, in order to get rid of all the lice. Be careful not to leave the shampoo on too long though, because it can burn. You may need to repeat the shampoo seven to ten days later.
It is also important that you get rid of all lice that may be hiding on your clothes, bedding, or furniture. Be sure to:
- wash all of your clothes, towels, and sheets in very hot water.
- store any clothing that cannot be washed in plastic bags (this will kill any remaining lice).
- soak hairbrushes, combs, hair ties, and clips in lice shampoo or rubbing alcohol for at least one hour