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Although itching may be a of a lice infestation, most often individuals are asymptomatic.


Keep in mind that although the only reliable of an infestation is the presence of a live louse or nymph juvenile lousethe presence of nits may be a that there is or has been an active infestation. Head lice Pediculus humanus capitis are parasites that can be found on the he of people. Pediculosis is the term for an infection with head lice. The head louse, Pediculus humanus capitisis different from the pubic louse Pthirus pubiswhich causes pubic hair infections, and the body louse Pediculus humanus corporis.

Head lice infestation is very common, and it has been around since ancient times. While the exact frequency of infections is unknown, estimates range from million cases annually. Anyone who comes in close contact with someone who already has head lice, or even their contaminated clothing and other belongings, is at risk for acquiring head lice. So it is easy to transmit head lice from one person to another. Preschool and elementary-school children years of age and their families are infected most often.

Girls contract head lice more often than boys, and women contract more head lice than men. Getting a head lice infection has nothing to do with personal hygiene. Anyone can become infested with head lice. There are three forms of lice, namely the nitthe nymph, and the adult louse.

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Nit : Nits are lice eggs. Nits are hard to see and are often confused with dandruff or hair-spray droplets. Nits are found firmly attached to the hair shaft. They are oval shaped, mm in length and usually yellow to white in color. Nits take about a week to hatch. Nymph : The nit hatches into a baby louse called a nymph.

It looks like an adult head louse but is smaller.


Nymphs mature into adults about seven days after hatching. To live, the nymph must feed on human blood. Adult : The adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed, has six legs, and is tan to grayish-white in color. In people with dark hair, the adult louse looks darker. Females lay nits; they are usually larger than males. Adult lice can live up to 30 days on a person's head.

To live, adult lice need to feed on human blood. If the louse falls off a person, it dies within two days. Life cycle : The nits hatch into nymphs, which become full grown lice. In order to produce more nits, the adult lice must mate. Head lice are most frequently located on the scalp behind the ears and near the neckline at the back of the neck.

Head lice hold on to hair with hook-like claws that are found at the end of each of their six legs. Head lice are rarely found on the body, eyelashes, or eyebrows. Head lice are often confused with dandruff. Dandruff can easily be distinguished by combing the hair or even just rubbing.

Dandruff should be easily removed, but the nits of head lice are firmly attached to the hair shaft. Head lice can be detected by looking closely through the hair and scalp for nits, nymphs, or adults. Locating a nymph or adult may be difficult; there are usually only a few of them, and they can move quickly from searching fingers. However, the presence of nits close to the scalp confirms that a person is infested. If you are not sure whether or not a person has head lice, the diagnosis should be made by a health care professional, school nurse, or a professional from the local health department or agricultural extension service.

The nits of head lice are easily visible with a microscope. Ioffe-Uspensky performed a study that showed that using a louse comb was better than visual inspection alone when screening for lice infestations. A black light is sometimes used to see if there are nits with live lice in them. Some reports indicate that nits with live lice will fluoresce. For effective elimination of head lice, the infested individual, family members that are also infested, and the home must all be treated.

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It is important to remember that treatment should only be started if there are clearly live lice identified. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics in a recent clinical report, "The ideal treatment of lice should be safe, free of toxic chemicals, readily available without a prescription, easy to use, effective and inexpensive.

Over-the-counter OTC or prescription medications are used to treat the affected people and their families. Follow these treatment steps:. Although anyone living with an infested person can get head lice, you don't need to be treated. Check household contacts for lice and nits every two to three days. Treat if lice and nits are found. For children under 2 years old, remove nits, nymphs immature adult liceand adult lice by hand, and see a health care professional. Permethrins are approved for children older than 2 months of age; however, this should too be done after consultation with your physician.

I also agree to receive s from MedicineNet and I understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet subscriptions at any time. Many head lice medicines are available at drugstores. Each OTC product usually contains one of the following active ingredients:. It has actually been pulled off the market twice due to safety concerns, but it was reintroduced in the United States USA in due to increasing resistance of head lice to other treatments. The formulation in the United States contains terpineol dipentene, isopropyl alcohol, and pine needle oil, both of which have pediculicidal properties.

The product is used differently than other compounds.

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The product is extremely flammable and should never be around heat, hair dryers, or curling irons. The product is applied to dry hair until the scalp and hair are thoroughly coated. Make sure that the area behind the ears and the back of the neck are covered. Let the hair dry naturally no hair dryers. The product is left in place for eight to 12 hours. After eight to 12 hours, wash and rinse the hair with shampoo. Use a nit comb fine-toothed comb to remove any nits. If live lice are noted after seven days, retreat. It is currently recommended only for individuals 6 years of age up to 60 years of age.

Leave it in the hair for only 10 minutes and then rinse thoroughly in a sink. Do not use a shower to avoid getting the solution over the rest of the body. You can immediately wash your hair with regular shampoo. It is not ovicidal and needs to be repeated in one week if there is any evidence of live lice. Spinosad Natroba : Spinosad is a derived from soil bacteria.

It is moderately more effective than the over-the-counter treatments but is available only by prescription and is very expensive. It is approved in children 6 months of age and older and contains benzyl alcohol, as well.

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Ivermectin Sklice : Ivermectin is available as both a 0. It has been used to treat helminthic infestations worms for many years. Generally, only one treatment is needed. It is pediculocidal kills live lice. Topical ivermectin lotion may be used in the treatment of lice in children 6 months of age and older.

While oral invermectin is commonly used in other countries for lice, it is currently not approved for the treatment of head lice in the U. In countries where it is approved, the dosage is usually a single dose, which is often repeated in nine days. It can still be prescribed, but most experts recommend against its usage.

Occlusion therapy, nit combing, and hair removal have not been proven to be fully effective in completely eradicating head lice. Home remedies that have been tried include vinegar, mayonnaise, petroleum jelly, olive oil, butter, rubbing alcohol, and prolonged water submersion. These all fail to eliminate infestation, because these therapies do not kill all of the eggs or lice. This is believed due to the specialized way the parasite "breathes. Hair removal has never been proven to be effective, but since the louse requires a hair shaft to lay its eggs, it should prevent the lice from multiplying.

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