Head Lice

Head Lice: How to Recognise an Infestation and Treat It

If your scalp suddenly itches excessively, an infestation of head lice may be the cause. To feed on our blood, the tiny parasites nest in our hair. Read this article to find out which signs indicate an infestation of head lice and how you can treat it effectively.

What are head lice?

Head lice are widespread in any country, and children between the ages of three and twelve, in particular, are often infected due to close physical contact. Outbreaks occur mainly in schools, mainly between late summer and early autumn. But they can also be found in adults who have close contact with children. Head lice are not transmitted via objects or pets such as dogs and cats.

They are small, wingless insects that are usually only 2 to 3 millimetres in size. Since head lice feed on blood, they bite our scalp and cause an unpleasant itch.

An infestation of head lice should generally not be taken as a sign of poor hygiene. The nits nest in both dirty and clean hair. The length of the hair is also irrelevant and does not influence on the risk of infection. However, head lice are more difficult to detect in thick, curly hair.

Head Lice

Signs of head lice

The following symptoms show how an infestation with head lice manifests itself:

  • Severe itching, which increases especially at night. This is because head lice are nocturnal.
  • The feeling that something is moving in the hair.
  • Bites and puncture marks on the scalp.
  • The eggs – also called nits – of head lice stick firmly to the scalp, usually in warmer places like behind the ears or on the back of the neck. The nits are easily confused with dandruff. Unlike dandruff, however, they are not so easy to remove from the hair.

Head lice treatment

Simply washing your hair is not enough to remove lice from your head. To effectively remove the lice from the hair, you should get a special lice comb, which is available in pharmacies or drugstores. Wet the hair and carefully comb through each section from the roots to the tips. After each strand, you should wipe the comb with a clean kitchen towel. When you have combed through the entire head, you should rinse the comb thoroughly under hot water.

In addition to the treatment with the lice comb, you should apply a special lice remedy with dimethicone, a silicone oil. This agent coats the lice and their eggs with a thick layer of oil and suffocates them. Dimethicone contains no poison – it is used in many cosmetic products and food production. You should repeat the treatment after about 7 to 10 days, as some lice may survive the first treatment.

By the way: The use of insecticides is not recommended, as the aphids have built up resistance to the active substances in the meantime.

Hair Lice

Combating head lice: What else you should consider

In addition to direct treatment of the infested scalp, you should also take other accompanying measures:

  • Family members should also be thoroughly checked for head lice and treated if necessary.
  • Wash used bed linen and worn clothing such as pyjamas and towels at least 60 degrees.
  • Clothing as well as items such as cuddly toys that cannot be washed hot should be kept in a sealed plastic bag for three days. Alternatively, you can put them in the freezer for two days.
  • Clean used brushes and hair clips with hot water and soap and do not use them for a few days.
  • Upholstered furniture such as sofas and armchairs should be thoroughly vacuumed.

Head lice prevention: The best tips

To prevent the transmission of head lice, you should avoid close body contact as much as possible. Since lice cannot jump or fly, they travel from one head of hair to the next. Sharing brushes and headgear can also transmit lice. Since especially children are affected by a lice infestation and therefore outbreaks occur again and again in day-care centres and schools, a regular check of the head of hair with a lice comb can also be useful as a preventive measure.

You can check out our other useful articles about health here.

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