From whom did my child acquire head lice? Head lice are acquired from other infested people. Upon learning of their child's infestation, parents frequently seek to ascribe blame. This 'knee-jerk' reaction is understandable but unproductive. The offending lice came from some other person, but it is not currently possible to determine the identity of the donor. Parents are encouraged to focus their energies on education and treatment rather than on unsuccessful witch-hunts. Rather than accusing the school administrators or other parents for not preventing spread of head lice, parents are likely to benefit more by ensuring all children and adults in the home are inspected and treated as appropriate. What is the origin of head lice? Human lice likely co-evolved with people. Our primate relatives harbor their own species of lice. Lice are quite host
specific; human lice, for instance, will not feed upon other animals, and lice of other animals would rarely feed upon a person. How many people are infested by head lice? Few useful statistics are available for estimating the prevalence of infestation. Far fewer people seemed infested than the general public or the medical community might believe. Reports of "epidemics" of head lice may generally be attributed to incorrect identifications and misdiagnoses. The apparent annual and seasonal "increases" in prevalence may be real or due to peculiarities in monitoring activities. What methods can I use to treat the infestation? First, ensure that a correct diagnosis/identification has been made before considering treatment options. An old infestation, manifested solely by hatched eggs, is not a cause for treatment. Treatment should be considered only when active lice or viable eggs are observed . Several options exist to eliminate the infestation, but some are better tested than others. Success will likely depend on an integrated approach that relies on several of the methods listed below, combined with perseverance and a bit of levity. Because the egg is particularly resistant to some chemical treatments, a second treatment is often required about 10 days later to target the nymphs that hatch after the initial treatment. Do insecticides cause resistance? Insecticides generally do not cause mutations leading to insecticidal resistance. Rather, any insect (or any organism) may, by chance, have the capacity to avoid, detoxify or eliminate toxins from its body. These few individuals may survive treatment, reproduce and serve to establish a larger population of lice that are less susceptible to that insecticide and perhaps to related compounds. Mechanical removal Mechanically removing lice and nits can be an effective but time-consuming method. Because most eggs will be non-viable, their removal is often impractical and unjustified. An infestation may be eliminated by combing each day to remove the live lice (including those that have hatched since the previous day). Comb daily until no live lice are discovered for about two weeks. Use illumination, magnification and a good louse or nit comb to locate and remove the offending insects. Although the
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- Summer '14
- Head louse, Facial hair, Pediculosis, Body louse, Crab louse, Louse