Louse - Symptoms, Transmission and Treatment

The lice is an insect that measures approximately 4 mm in length and has a transparent and grayish coloration. Lice are ectoparasites, that is, parasites that live outside their host. They can parasite the scalp, the hairs of the body or the hairs of the pubic region. The presence of lice in the hair or hairs is called pediculosis.


What are lice and nits?

The lice is an insect that lives exclusively in our hair. A lice off a scalp can not survive and dies within 48 hours.

Female lice have an average life of 30 to 40 days, being able to produce up to ten eggs per day. Throughout its short life, the female louse is able to deposit in our hair more than 200 eggs.

The lice eggs, which are called lice, are attached to the base of the hair for up to eight days, the average time for the birth of a new lice. Contrary to what some people think, nit is not the female form of lice. The lice is not the lice woman, popularly speaking, but the name of the lice egg. There is male lice, female lice and lice.

A person infested with lice is said to have a pediculosis. A patient with pediculosis, therefore, is a patient with lice. Pediculosis is, after influenza, the most common disease in school-age children. It is estimated that up to 1/4 of children have lice.
  • Pediculus humanus capitis: the lice that infects the scalp
  • Pediculus humanus corporis or Pediculus humanus humanus: a type of louse that infects the hairs of the body
  • Pthirus pubis: the pest that infects the pubic hairs, also known as boring

In this text we are going to stick only to Pediculus humanus capitis, the most common of all, the famous head lice.

Transmission of lice

First of all, it is important to note that:
  • Louse does not jump
  • Louse does not fly
  • Lice is not a sign of poor hygiene
  • Lice can not infect your pet

The transmission of the lice is done by personal contact and by objects. The mode of interaction between children is much closer and personal than among adults, which explains the ease of transmission in this age group. The lice can also be passed from one person to another through objects such as clothes, towels, headphones , hair bows, combs, brushes, and bedding. An adult louse can survive for up to two days on an object, keeping it viable for transmission.

For reasons that are still unknown, black children have a lower risk of transmission than white girls, as boys have fewer risks than girls. Hair size does not influence the transmission.

Having lice is not a sign of poor hair hygiene. The fact that your child's hair is always well washed does not reduce their risk of being affected by lice.

Symptoms of lice (pediculosis)

Contrary to popular belief, most cases of lice are asymptomatic. More than that, it is perfectly possible to find a child with lice-infested hair and lice without reporting any complaint. For this reason, it is routine in some colleges to frequently inspect children for lice, preventing the parasite from spreading throughout the class.

In symptomatic cases, and many of them are, the main symptom is an intense itching in the head. This itching usually arises on the same day of the contamination or at most the next day. It occurs by reaction to saliva of the lice, which is released while it feeds on blood and scalp skin scraps. Itching at the nape and behind the ears are quite common. Some cases are so intense that the child has difficulty sleeping; others itches so much that they produce wounds on the skin.

One of the complications of pediculosis is the bacterial infection of these itchy wounds, called pyoderma. This infection is caused when the staph bacteria, which lives on our skin, contaminates the open wound by scratching the head frantically.

Treatment of lice and nits

There is a wide variety of treatments and remedies for lice. However, as important as the use of remedies is the inspection and identification of pediculosis in all the people around the identified case. If a child is treated for lice, but their siblings or classmates, also infected, are not, the chance of reinfection is very high.

As the louse is nothing more than an insect, the treatment is preferably done with special insecticides. These can be applied in the form of shampoos, lotions or creams. Some of the substances used include:
  • Permethrin
  • Pyrethrin
  • Malathion
  • Lindane

Ivermectin, an oral antiparasitic drug, is an option for cases resistant to topical insecticides.

Never use medicines, shampoos or lotions that have not been prescribed by your pediatrician. There are some agricultural insecticide solutions that are toxic and can cause serious harm to children.

In children under two years of age, we do not recommend the use of substances that contain insecticide. In these cases or when parents do not want to use insecticides on the child, the wet fine comb for mechanical extraction of the lice is an option. But attention, it takes a lot of patience. Hair should be combed four times a day for at least 10 to 14 days, even if there are apparently no more lice or lice. The goal is to remove any existing lice.

You can use vinegar or olive oil to facilitate the removal work with fine comb. Warning: these substances help in mechanical removal but do not kill lice or lice. The vinegar can be heated until warm and then mixed with a conditioner. When applied and muffled with a plastic cap for at least 30 minutes, the vinegar dissolves the layer that surrounds the egg (lime), preventing the attachment of it on the hair. Pass the fine comb then the lice and nits will come off easily. The vinegar can be mixed with water as well, in a solution with a 50% ratio for each.

After the treatment, the identification of nits does not necessarily mean failure of the same. If there are no more lice, these may be just old egg residues that remain stuck to the hair.

Bed linen should be changed daily, washed with hot water and then ironed. Used combs should be boiled and rinsed with alcohol.

As long as there are lice, the child should be kept out of school. Do not forget to advise the board of the school so that other mothers can be aware of the existence of lice in their children.

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