I love to play dress up with my 8-yr-old daughter. I put fancy clothes on her, do her make-up and hair, until… Our excitement turned to disgust when a I saw a bug on her hair. If she had the bug, then I also play host, too. And soon enough, my head starts to itch. I have super fine hair and these bugs make my falling hair problem worse. When I do nit-combing, seeing locks on the white sheet with the bugs clinging on them terrifies me. Just as my hair starts to grow back from last year’s infestation, lice start menacing again. This time I will make sure it is going to be goodbye forever.
Know Your Enemy
‘Pediculus Humanus Capitis’ is the scientific name for these tiny, wingless, brown parasites that live on human hair. A head louse infestation is sometimes referred to as ‘pediculosis‘. The life cycle of a head louse has three stages: Eggs/Nits, Nymphs, and Adult Lice.
Nits. Head lice eggs are called “nits”. For incubation, nits are laid by an adult female louse close to the scalp, where it is warm. Nits, coffee brown or grey, are cemented firmly to the base of the hair shaft with a very strong glue-like substance. They are usually found behind the ears or close to the neckline. An adult female louse deposits approximately six or seven nits a day. In about 7-10 days, the nits will hatch and turn to dull yellow.
Nymphs. A smaller version of the mature head louse emerges from the nit while the empty shell remains glued in position. Nymphs become adult lice in 7-10 days.
Adult Lice. Mature head lice feed on human blood every three to six hours and will die the next 24 hours without it. After their meal, we can even see our blood in their transparent bodies. They molt (shed their skin) three times before they become sexually mature adults. Once they are capable of reproduction, their population can grow at an alarming rate if left untreated. A female louse may produce more than 100 eggs in her lifespan. Generally, there is about a dozen of adult lice in the head and a hundred live eggs.
Lice cannot fly nor jump, but they can crawl quite quickly. They spread easily by direct physical contact. Notice how kids play: they stay super close with their friends. So, you can just imagine how lice travel from hair to hair using their claw-like legs. Then the wind blows and the lice are easily dislodged from the hair, giving a picture of them flying to your daughter’s hair. And when she comes home, you would give her a big hug without noticing a bug or two moving to your hair the moment her hair touches yours. But do not worry, they do not carry diseases. And what’s amazing about them is that they cannot be drowned. They breathe through holes on the sides of their bodies called spiracles. When the hair is wet, these spiracles shut down a head louse’s breathing system and stop the louse from drowning.
They move quickly, grow their population really fast, they survive even in water, so how do we get rid of them? The key to treating lice infestation and preventing re-infestation is to break their life cycle. Never underestimate the strength of your fingers. For ages, using a nit-comb and manually pulling off nits from the hair shaft have proven its effectiveness. Part the hair section by section and strike the nit-comb on the hair. Catch the falling bugs with a white sheet of paper then crash them with your nail. Comb the hair several times and pull off the nits using your fingers as you see them.
Aids to nit-picking and nit-combing:
1. Conditioner. Apply a liberal amount of conditioner on the hair and massage the scalp. The conditioner separates the lice from the hair. Use a nit-comb for best results. The bonus part is getting an ultra-conditioned hair afterwards.
2. Olive Oil, “Olea Europaea”, is nature’s anti-parasitic treatment.
3. Mayo treatment. Water cannot drown lice but olive oil, mayonnaise, and petroleum jelly can. Apply a liberal amount of any of these to the hair. Put on a shower cap and leave for four hours or so. Avoid sleeping with a shower cap on so you would not get suffocated by it. The challenge is removing them from the hair. A good dish washing liquid will do the trick.
4. White vinegar. Pour a liberal amount of vinegar on the hair, let it dry for an hour. For long hair, tie the hair in a bun as high as it will allow and pour the vinegar on the bun and the rest of the head. Vinegar naturally removes the glue of the nits from the hair.
5. Essential oils. They instantly soothe itchy and irritated scalps and help reduce inflammation. Leaves of “Eucalyptus Globulus” are distilled to extract eucalyptus oil.
6. Head Lice Treatment. Getting rid of these bugs has never been easier with the use of lice treatments. They kill the bugs and remove the stubborn nits for you, saving you from painful necks and hours of nit-picking. Make sure, though, that they contain natural ingredients. Check the label. You do not want to see permethrin and lindane. These are highly toxic pesticides that cause headaches, nausea, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, loss of coordination, neurological problems–even death. I tried using one and it did kill the bugs… and our hair. It was not only me who had hair fall, even my kids’ hair started falling off and new hair strands were gray.
Do the above while doing the nit-picking and nit-combing. Critical days for nit-picking:
Just To Be Sure: Things Lice Hate
Armed with knowledge, natural remedies, and determination, winning the battle against head lice is easy in 30 days.