Your guide to eradicating head lice on National Bug Busting Day

What are head lice and do you get them?

Head lice are very small six-legged insects (up to 3mm long) that live in the hair, usually near the scalp and neck, and feed on human blood. Nits are the empty lice eggs which are yellow, brown or white and are generally a little easier to see.  In many cases, head lice won’t cause any discomfort, so the only way you’ll know you or your child has them is by spotting them. If there is itching, this is an allergic reaction to the lice bites. Research suggests that combing through wet hair with a head lice comb is the best way to spot whether you have nits. Check out the video below for tips on checking for head lice, courtesy of the NHS.

Head lice are usually spread via direct head-to-head contact; they are most common in nurseries and primary schools as young children often play closely together. However, lice can live for a short period on clothing, bedding or other personal items such as a hairbrush so they can easily spread to family members, which is why it is important to check every member of the household as soon as they are discovered on one person.

Head Lice Treatment

There are many different treatments available to get rid of head lice:

  • Permethrin head lice treatments: head lice treatments containing the chemical permethrin used to be the head lice treatment of choice, however there is some evidence that lice are becoming resistant so these may not be as effective as they once were, although they are still successful in many cases. Treatments include Lyclear Dermal Rinse
  • Dimeticone head lice treatments: dimeticone is a silicone-based substance which physically coats the lice, stopping them from moving, feeding and being able to excrete excess water. This kills the lice, and as the action is physical not chemical, there is no chance of resistance. Products include Nitrid with Licerum, Hedrin Lotion, Hedrin Once Spray Gel and NYDA Pump Spray.
  • Natural head lice treatments: there are non-medicated treatments such as Delacet Herbal Head Lice Solution. Alternatively, you can avoid using any lotions or sprays by combing wet hair with a fine-toothed comb. You should apply plenty of conditioner to the hair while washing to help loosen the grip of the lice. The Bug Buster Kit contains a selection of combs to help you detect and remove lice. The only downside to combing only is that it is a very time-consuming process to ensure that you get rid of all of the lice and nits.

Don’t forget to treat every person in the household with head lice at the same time!

Head Lice Prevention

While there is no guaranteed head lice prevention, there are some products such as Hedrin Protect & Go Conditioning Spray and Nitty Gritty Head Lice Defence Spray which may help to prevent head lice. You can also reduce the risk of lice spreading by avoiding head-to-head contact and examining hair regularly to catch any infestation early and prevent it spreading to the rest of the family.

Head Lice Myths

  • Only children with dirty hair or bad personal hygiene get head lice: this is absolutely not true. Lice don’t care what condition your hair is in and can survive underwater for up to six hours so bathing makes no difference. Washing your hair does not get rid of lice either.
  • Head lice prefer long hair: lice have no preference about hair length. Boys with very short hair are just as likely to get head lice as girls with long hair.
  • Children with head lice should be kept at home: there is no need to keep your child off school. However you should ensure that they take precautions such as not sharing personal items and avoiding close contact with others.
  • Head lice can fly/jump: no they can’t, they can only crawl. That’s why the most common way to spread head lice is through direct contact.
  • Head lice can live in your home: head lice can only live and reproduce on human hair. They can live for a short time on items such as hats and hairbrushes, however will die if they do not find a new host, so they are not living in your home and re-infesting your family.
  • Head lice can be transmitted between humans and pets: we cannot spread head lice to our pets, nor can they give lice to us.
  • Head lice carry diseases: no research has shown that head lice spread disease. They can however be irritating, and it is possible to develop a rash from the bites, which may become infected from scratching.
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