If Your Child Has Lice, You’re Not to Blame . . . it’s Just Louse-y Luck

The world’s oldest head lice were 10,000 years old, give or take. Two varieties of louse have been feeding on human blood for much longer than that. They are actually adapted to prefer us as hosts. Six to twelve million kids in the U.S. get head lice per year.

Unlike body lice, which are dangerous and were spreaders of typhus fever for many years, head lice are relatively harmless. Also, unlike body lice, infestation has nothing to do with cleanliness of the person. If your child is sent home by the school nurse, spare yourself the shame.

It’s all a matter of PH levels. When we are born, our scalps are neutral with a PH level of 7. But as we mature, they reach a range that is slightly acidic and form an “acid mantle.” Most adults have an acid mantle that is inhospitable to lice. So that’s why kids get lice more often. Because they spend a lot of time together in close quarters, children tend to spread lice rapidly.

Your child can contract head lice in a number of ways:

Contact with a host or a host’s clothing

Combs, brushes, or towels that a host has recently used

Lying on a bed, couch, pillow, carpet, or stuffed animal that has recently (within 48 hours) been in contact with a host

Symptoms and Identification

Lice have three forms, the nit (egg), nymph, and adult. The adult louse is tan/gray, the size of a sesame seed and is six-legged. Lice mature in seven days and survive for 30, although they can only last 48 hours without a host. Your best chance of spotting an infestation is to find nits firmly attached to the hair shaft near the scalp, as the adults and nymphs are evasive.

The symptoms are simple: tickling and itching followed by scratching and, consequently, sores. If you suspect your child may have lice you can come in for a quick diagnosis with just a comb, magnifying glass, and possible microscope. You will likely want to report a lice infestation to your child’s school nurse, as they are probably not the only case.

The child or family member with lice should undergo the protocol described on one of several over-the-counter treatment rinses and continue to be vigilant for 2-3 weeks. All family members should remain on guard (parents can host lice as well), and all surfaces in the home should be washed and disinfected. Don’t worry about your pets, though—lice only want us!

Several prescription treatments with specific application instructions are also available for more stubborn infestations. We can definitely beat the lice. For more info, come in to one of our locations and speak to a physician about ways to rid your home of these itch-inducers today!

Emily Perry