I remember undergoing “head checks” with a fine tooth comb at school as officials checked us for head lice. Since I had never had head lice, I had no idea what they were nor did I care at the time. Now that I’m an adult, I know the importance of being aware of a variety of topics, especially when it pertains to health. I didn’t learn the full truth about lice until I was much older and came into contact with a patient who had body lice where I worked. The nurse who supervised me taught me and the other assistants that there are three types of lice: head, body and genital. Although I knew this, I didn’t know that people with good hygiene can contract lice. I was under the impression that only people with poor hygiene were susceptible, but I learned the truth that day. Lice are small, wingless parasites that feed on blood. These blood-feasting parasites are very contagious and can easily spread among people who have close body contact.
What is the cause of lice? Lice is caused by coming into contact with lice and/or their eggs, which hatch within a week or so. Since lice can’t fly or crawl on the ground, close physical contact with someone with the condition must occur in order for it to spread. Such contact includes sexual intercourse, which spreads pubic lice, or crabs, contact with contaminated clothing, bedding or furniture, as well as head to head contact with an infected person.
What are symptoms of lice? Lice will cause intense itching, tickling of hairs on the body as lice move around, visible lice on clothing, which resemble tiny pussy willow buds, and small red bumps on scalp, neck and shoulders.
How can I get rid of lice? Lice can sometimes be pretty challenging to get rid of and can sometimes even recur. In most cases, over the counter shampoos will work at ridding people of lice, but sometimes a prescription strength shampoo is needed. Furthermore, scratching can cause bumps to become infected, sometimes requiring medical treatment.
How can I prevent lice? Unfortunately it’s not easy to prevent young children from contracting lice if they come into contact with an infected child. Children are frequently in close proximity of each other as they play, which allows for easy spreading of lice. You can teach your child to never share combs, brushes, coats, hats, scarves, headphones, or anything else that goes on or near the head or shoulders with other children. Another way to possibly prevent lice is to check your child’s scalp and belongings on a regular basis. The internet has many pictures of lice so you’ll know what you’re looking for. You can also encourage your children to use separate hooks and cubbies at school, to avoid contamination with other children’s items that may be infested with lice.
Mayo Clinic Lice Prevention Page – http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/lice/DS00368/DSECTION=prevention