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Embarrassment. Shame. Shock.
These are the reactions that many parents feel when they discover that their child is suffering from head lice. They feel that others will see them as unclean. The facts are, however, that head lice prefer a clean environment in which to dwell. There is, therefore, no need to feel embarrassed if head lice visits itself upon your family. By arming yourself with the facts, you can soon rid yourselves of this tiny pest.
Head lice are tiny, wingless insects about 2 millimeters long. They are grayish white or tan in color. They, as mentioned, tend to seek out clean environments, so the popular misconception about bad personal hygiene leading to head lice is just that – a misconception. Head lice infestation is a major problem n the United States with between 6 and 10 million cases annually. In some schools as many as 4 of 5 of students suffer.
Head lice cannot jump or fly so they are transmitted by direct contact – usually head to head contact. They also are transmitted by the sharing of a comb, scarf, headphones, swimming cap or other headgear.
The main symptom of head lice infestation is itching caused by the insect biting the scalp. If you notice your child repeatedly scratching her head, you should inspect for lice. This will require bright light and a magnifying glass. Concentrate your search around the ears and the nape of the neck. The actual louse itself is quite mobile, so it is easier to look for nits, which attach themselves to the hair at the base of the scalp. If you do discover either lice or nits, treatment with a special shampoo will kill them. To get rid of them completely, everyone who is affected should be treated at the same time. It is a good idea, then, to check all family members at the same time.
Another treatment after seven days will ensure that the problem is completely eradicated. You should also treat bedding, clothing and other personal items. Wash them and then dry in a dryer for at least 20 minutes to kill any lice that inhabit these items. Vacuum mattresses and other non-washable items.
To lessen the chances of getting lice, encourage your child not to share combs and brushes. If your child has long hair, keep it in braids or a ponytail to lessen the chances of hair to hair contact.
Head lice are an extremely common and treatable condition. Following the simple guidelines outlined above will give you the power to forever banish it from your home.