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Health Tips / Head Lice

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Head lice are parasites that live on the hair and scalp.
Those who are suffering from head lice will scratch their scalp incessantly.

Detection of head lice is by the "wet combing" method. This involves combing the wet head under a good light, initially with an ordinary comb and then with a fine comb, moving slowly from the scalp downward for each strand of hair.
For very tangled hair, conditioner should be applied to the hair before starting wet combing.

The contents of the comb are examined each time and the comb cleaned before combing each new strand. While empty eggshells (nits), eggs and dead lice are indicative of an infestation, it is only when a live head louse is seen that diagnosis can be confirmed. Care should be taken not to confuse the condition with dandruff or dry scalp conditions or eczema. The lice eggs themselves are pinhead sized.

A female louse can lay up to eight eggs each day. The eggs stick to the hair shaft and hatch out over the next ten days. The empty shell (nit) stays on the hair shaft and the newly hatched louse develops over the next 12 days to become an adult louse. Adult lice are very contagious and these can during close contact climb from one head to another. In order to sustain themselves, head lice will burrow into the scalp to draw blood and this results in itching and irritation of the scalp.

Headlice is more prevalent in children aged between 4 and 11 years, is more common in girls than boys and in urban rather than rural areas. This is considered to be due to how children interact.

While head lice can affect all ages and social classes, those with long or short hair, clean or dirty hair, it has been shown to spread more easily for those with short hair.

Preventative measures 
Treatments should be only used, when head lice are actually present as they are not effective in preventing an infestation and are considered to cause resistance to treatments when an outbreak actually occurs. Regular inspection of the scalp and wet-combing, will ensure early detection of Head Lice.

As the condition is more common in children between 4 and 11 years, schools are advised to take an active role in monitoring the prevalence of head lice in the classroom. It is not advisable to share brushes or combs or any item in contact with the hair. Those who suffer from head lice should take particular care not to share these products and so schools and play-groups ask that a child who has an infestation not come to school until the head lice has been treated.

Non-prescription treatments 

Spray Repellents such as Lyclear Repellent may be sprayed over the hair and may provide some protection against Head Lice. 

Fine combing the head, when wet, is the first step in dislodging the eggs and the head lice. Sometimes referred to as "Bug-Busting" the use of wet-combing and conditioner has been reported to be effective in only one third of cases.
A dimethicone - based preparation Hedrin is specifically formulated to kill head lice without the resistance, which can sometimes be associated with traditional insecticides, which act by poisoning the louse.

The Dimeticone, which acts as a physical inhibitor by smothering the louse, preventing its ability to excrete surplus water. Available as a Gel which may be sprayed into the hair it works in 15 minutes. 

Chemical Treatments- Traditional insecticides used in the treatment of head lice are aqueous solutions such as HEADMASTER.  Lyclear is available as a cream rinse and also available in a Spray Away formulation which is very simple and easy to use. 

There is no evidence that one chemical agent is better than another in eradicating headlice and choice can often depend on local treatment policies.

The creme rinse LYCLEAR is applied to a damp scalp and rinsed off after 10 minutes. If you suffer from asthma, young children or have sensitive skin you should consult your pharmacist first.

There have been media reports of the risk of nerve damage associated with certain insecticides. While some of these reports are considered to be greatly exaggerated it is advisable that all such treatments should normally only be applied twice with a seven day interval between applications.

Mechanical clearance methods are generally considered to be relatively safe. However, if conditioner is used, it may irritate the scalp and must be washed off thoroughly afterwards.

Herbal Treatments-While, to date, no complete double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials have been completed to compare the efficacy of herbal products in treating headlice, there are some positive anecdotal reports. Herbal preparations to treat headlice have included Neem Oil, Tea Tree Oil, aniseed and cinnamon leaf and are all marketed as non-toxic preparations. Full toxicity and efficacy studies have yet to be completed on these products.

Further information on the medicines above including dosages and contraindications are available at

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Last update: 16/05/2013 12:38 • Previous update: 30/11/-0001 00:00