Do you regularly receive letters home asking you to check your child’s hair for head lice? We do and there is nothing more annoying, I check the boy’s hair often so know that they are clean but it’s clear to me that there are a lot of parents who don’t bother checking or even treating their child. Luckily for us the boys have only ever had the critters once and they were easily taken care of but if your child has lovely long locks then head lice can be a real problem and one that occurs often becoming a real nuisance.
Did you know that head lice affect 1 in 5 school aged children and that anyone can get head lice. The most common symptom of head lice is itching, which can lead to a loss of concentration and sleep. Not treating head lice can lead to a loss of self-esteem and confidence, and a general feeling of being unwell.
If you are unsure what head lice are, how to treat them and how to keep them away take a look at the questions that were put to Christine Brown, an ex school nurse and advisor to the Medical Entomology Centre.
1) What ARE head lice?
“Head lice are small wingless insects that live on the scalp, feeding from the blood. Baby lice are extremely small but mature within 10 days and only after that are they able to reproduce, with numbers growing more slowly than most people think. Females lay several viable eggs a day and adult lice can live for as long as a month.”
2) How do they spread?
“Lice are spread only by head-to-head contact, so sleepovers, after school activities, playing with friends and visiting family are the most common places for children to pick them up and pass them on.”
3) How do you know if you’ve got them (as the child and as the parent looking)?
“Although the best known symptom is the itching, although only about 30% are aware of it – the only true way of knowing is by regular checks with a head lice detection comb. Head lice can be uncomfortable, can prevent sleep and concentration, and can cause bullying. It’s best for parents to check for head lice using a comb made for the purpose – ideally white, so that lice can be easily seen and with teeth no more than 0.3mm apart. Research has shown that detection combing is nearly four times more effective than visual inspection for finding live lice. Lice are around 2-4mm long but immature lice are even smaller, living close to the scalp. Nits are dead or empty shells, which can be removed by hand or by combing.”
4) Why are kids more prone? And girls?
“Children are more prone as they are in close contact with each other. Children aged 4 to 11 are most at risk but no one is immune. Girls and women do tend to be more prone as girls tend to play more closely together and women are the carers of the family. But there are certainly plenty of boys and men with lice.”
5) Any preventative measures? eg things to avoid, products to use
“Avoiding will not stop you from catching head lice! Hedrin have just launched a clinically proven head lice protection spray called Protect & Go. It’s a mango and orange scented conditioning spray which should be used at least twice a week. It protects children from the parasites by breaking the life cycle and killing lice before an infestation can be established. The spray is also kind to children’s hair and should be used as part of the regular cleaning regime, much the same as cleaning teeth or using shampoo.”
6) If you’ve got them, what should you do?
“If you find live lice, firstly, don’t worry. Head lice are a normal part of life and there is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Research suggests lice have become resistant to pesticide treatments, so pick a non pesticide treatment which will work by smothering the lice and either stripping them of their waxy coating, causing them to dehydrate or blocking the openings to their air tubes, disrupting their ability to manage water. These physical modes of action mean there is theoretically no chance for the head lice to build up a resistance. Try a treatment containing dimeticone or octanediol, which are used in Hedrin’s treatment products. If you’re unsure about treatment options, speak to your pharmacist.”
7) Are treatments still as noxious and overpowering as I remember them as a kid, or are there gentler versions now?
“No – the new insecticides treatments are odourless, non stinging, easy to use and kind to skin and hair.”
8) What’s the key ingredient that kills them and is there a natural alternative?
“With non pesticide treatments, the key ingredients in use are dimeticone, octanediol and isopropyl myristate. There is limited evidence to show that natural remedies, such as tea tree oil, mayonnaise etc are effective in eradicating head lice.”
9) Does the whole family need to be treated?
“Only if you find live lice on other members of the family, never treat ‘just in case’.”
10) What would happen if you left nits untreated?
“Nits are the hatched or dead eggs. They remain on the hair as long as the hair is on the head and having them on your hair will make no difference to the hair or to you. However, leaving head lice untreated thus leading to a long term untreated infection has similar symptoms to low-grade flu and can make a child irritable and can result in a secondary bacterial infection.”
11) Is it true they prefer clean hair?
“Having head lice has nothing to do with personal hygiene. Head lice can live on all types of hair and no preference exists between clean or dirty hair!”
12) Does the ‘nit nurse’ still exist in schools?
“No! Employing a nit nurse is not an effective method of controlling head lice. To adhere to best practice, each of the 5.5 million primary school children in the UK would need to be checked by the nit nurse once every week! So the likelihood of each child receiving a thorough check is minimal at best. Even if the nit nurse checked and found lice it would still be up to the parents to choose and use a treatment. Parents need to feel empowered to check for head lice regularly and feel confident about using an appropriate treatment when an infestation is found. The website www.onceaweektakeapeek.co.uk has some great advice for parents on managing and treating head lice.
If you would like to protect your children from head lice you could use Hedrin Protect & Go, a fuss-free spray which, when applied twice-a-week, protects children from the parasites by breaking the life cycle and killing lice before an infestation can be established.
Hedrin Protect & Go is an Orange & Mango scented conditioning spray, it is ideal to use when the risk of infection increases for example the beginning of a new school term, at children’s parties, sleepovers and when you receive that dreaded letter from the school.
The spray contains an organic compound called 1,2 octanediol which disrupts the life cycle of head lice preventing their spread. It is easy to apply and dries naturally leaving the hair looking healthy and conditioned and is also kind to children’s hair and should be used as part of the regular cleaning regime.
Hedrin Protect & Go is available from Boots, pharmacies and leading retailers nationwide priced at £4.29 for 120ml. It is kind to skin and contains no known asthma triggers.