By Amy Burton – Revel Salon and Color Studio
Got lice? Ugh, the very mention of those nasty little critters has us scratching our heads with paranoia! Not to worry – while reading this article you will learn some interesting facts and find solutions to combat these pesky little bugs.
Although it may not be the hot topic at the office, if you have never encountered human head lice, chances are you know someone who has. Head lice (pediculosis) is the second most common communicable disease among elementary school children in America. It is estimated that 6-12 million infestations of head lice occur in children 3-11 years of age in the United States each year – and those figures do not include people in other age brackets. Head lice is highly contagious and can find a home on any head – regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. In over 35 years as a cosmetologist, I’ve encountered people with lice from toddlers to grandparents in their eighties. It used to be the schools sent notes home informing parents when there was an outbreak in the classroom. Now, many of them don’t bother. If you have school age children, work with kids, or know students living in a college dormitory, it’s a good idea to perform regular head checks – and know what to look for! Unsettling as it may be – believe it or not, many professionals including hair stylists, nurses and even doctors often miss lice infestations because they are not educated enough to know it when they see it.
Head lice are wingless, parasitic insects that live on human heads. They do not infest animals, so no worries there. Unlike body lice, head lice are not a sign of uncleanliness. They are not a health hazard nor do they cause disease. They are simply a nuisance that can cause anything from a little upset in a household to full blown nightmare, infesting each person living in the home. How long a person has lice and how much it disrupts your household depends on how early it is caught and what you do to treat it.
The lifecycle of a single louse from egg to mature adult capable of laying eggs or reproducing is about 21 days. A louse has a life expectancy of 30 days. Lice exist in three forms: nits, nymphs and mature adults. An adult female louse can be fertile 20-23 days and will lay 6-10 nits (eggs) per day – which is more than 200 in her lifetime. Nits attach to the hair shaft and usually hatch within 7-10 days. The nits are so tiny they are often mistaken for dandruff or residue from hair styling products. In my experience, the lighter the hair color, the harder they are to see. Once hatched, the baby lice are known as nymphs. They are grayish tan in color and can be extremely difficult to see. Nymphs mature into adult lice after 8-12 days. They are so tiny, sometimes they are undetectable to the naked eye. The average size of adult lice is approximately 2-3 millimeters or the size of a sesame seed. If the infestation is heavy they can be seen crawling about the head. In milder cases, you may never see one by combing through the hair, as they scurry so quickly.
Nymphs and adult lice can only survive by feeding off blood from the human scalp. Unlike bed bugs that can survive for months without feeding, lice cannot live more than a few days without a host (human blood). If living head lice falls off a person, it will soon starve unless it finds a new scalp to feed on. Lice move very quickly, sometimes making them difficult to find on the scalp unless the infestation is severe. Early detection of lice is often found in the form of nits, as they stay “glued” to the hair shaft until they hatch. Nits typically don’t slide off the hair shaft easily. Unhatched nits can be pulled off the hair. Don’t be misled if someone tells you a nit has already hatched if you can slide it off the hair strand. The only way to tell if a nit has hatched is to look at it under a microscope.
Lice have six legs with little claws that grip the hair very tightly. They move from the scalp down the hair shaft about 1-1 ½ inches to lay their eggs, then return to the scalp to scurry about and feed. Lice tend to favor warmer areas of the head. Behind the ears and the nape area are usually where you’ll find the heaviest concentration of them. Lice feed 5-6 times a day. When they bite, their saliva can irritate the scalp, causing mild to intense itching. Do not be fooled into thinking lice bites cause every scalp to itch. Sometimes the bites do not cause any itching whatsoever. Surprisingly, only about 50% of the people infested with lice will experience itching from the bite itself. In some cases, sores or red bumps may appear on the scalp as well. Others may only feel a creepy crawly sensation as the lice scurry about the scalp. Lice are nocturnal parasites, making them especially active at night.
Lice is almost always caught through direct head-to-head contact. Contrary to popular belief, head lice do not fly or jump. Lice are very resilient little creatures. Even when submerged under water they cling tightly to the hair shaft. They can even survive for several hours while your child swims in the community pool. Chlorine levels in pools will not kill them, but don’t panic, lice are not likely spread by swimming pool water.
Lice infestation continues to be a major problem for both children and adults throughout the United States and all over the world. What is scary is the fact that these little bugs are evolving into what experts are calling “Super Lice”. A recent study shows 99% of head lice have genetically mutated, becoming more resistant to common chemical treatments. That’s right folks, over-the-counter shampoos and even some prescription treatments used in the past to eradicate lice are simply no longer working! Not only are these products less and less effective on live lice, they do not kill nits and most of them contain toxic pesticides.
These days it is not uncommon to hear of families who have battled lice infestations for months on end. Oftentimes people are using the very treatments that these Super Lice are resistant to. Frantic parents spend a lot of money and countless, painstaking (usually between 6-8) hours using ineffective treatments only to find the lice returns a few weeks later – when more likely than not, the lice never left in the first place! The fact is – if one single nit is left behind it will become a nymph, and in about 3 weeks the craziness starts all over again.
What is the solution? Instead of wasting time and money on ineffective treatments, my first choice would be to go straight to the most qualified professionals. Left to the experts, elimination of all lice and their nits will be done quickly and safely without using any toxic chemicals. While this is not intended to be a plug for any particular company, I must say we have a fantastic resource for eradicating lice and their nits right here in our community.
Pediatric Hair Solutions is a doctor and nurse owned and operated company that opened in December 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sheila Fassler, RN, President, along with her husband John Fassler, MD, Medical Director, have built an amazing business. Their mission is to provide the most effective, safest and highest quality care available today. Pediatric Hair Solutions currently operates in nine locations spanning four states, with more locations on the way. They just opened mobile operations in their tenth city, Charleston, SC, and have a clinic location opening there very soon. With all that said, I can assure you this company is top notch. They have treated over 20,000 cases of head lice since opening their first location almost six years ago.
I recently visited Pediatric Hair Solutions to learn more about their operation and the services they provide. Not only was I highly impressed with their knowledge and expertise, the facility is extremely clean and comfortable. They offer both In-Clinic and At-Home Treatments. All products are natural, safe and the most effective for eradicating lice. In-Clinic treatments are FDA-Cleared Single Treatment Head Lice Removal and covered by many health insurance policies. Their In-Clinic treatments are “One and Done”, using an FDA-cleared medical device that dehydrates all forms of lice, including nits, nymphs and adults. Their In-Clinic treatments are guaranteed too! Along with Pre & Post Treatments their success rate is 100%. For more information contact Pediatric Hair Solutions at 704-909-9414 or visit them on the Internet at www.PediatricHairSolutions.com.
The best head lice prevention is to avoid sharing brushes, combs, hats and bedding, especially with anyone who has an active lice infestation. There are also safe, non-toxic, natural preventative sprays that keep lice away. More and more people are using them on their children daily, especially when they hear of an outbreak at school. These products are available through Pediatric Hair Solutions, as well as select pharmacies and salons. Contact them at 704-909-9414 to find a retailer near you.
I must stress this last point – it is imperative that effective treatment be done as soon as lice is discovered and EVERY family member must be checked for infestation. Some experts say up to 85% of moms with infested children will have head lice themselves unless properly treated. Yikes, those are some scary numbers! If you have a busy lifestyle and think you can put off treatment for a few days, don’t kid yourself.
As embarrassing as it may seem, lice is very common and shows no favoritism toward income or demographics. It can invade any household, any time of the year. The good news is that if caught early, an infestation is a mere inconvenience that disrupts a household for a short time, but can be eliminated quickly if proper measures are taken. Left unchecked or improperly treated, these creepy critters will continue to multiply. Before you know it, you’ll have a major infestation spreading to every member of your household. Be smart and contact the experts for advice on how to handle your lice problem quickly and effectively!
REVEL Salon and Studio
252 Latitude Lane, Suite 104, Lake Wylie, SC 29710