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Head Lice

Symptoms


Itching is the main symptom of head lice infection. The adult female louse lays eggs, known as nits, close to the surface of the scalp. They hatch before the hair has grown more than a few millimeters. The eggs are flesh-coloured and are difficult to see, but once the female louse has emerged, the nits can be easily seen.


Occasionally flakes of dandruff or keratin casts may be mistaken for nits, but a microscopic examination of the material will reveal the distinction. At times, insects can be seen crawling on the hair. Their favourite haunts are the scalp, around the ears or underneath hair grown at the back of the head. Head lice in children can be discovered by frequent scratching on the back of the head, and by verifying the lice and the nits.


Treatment


Occasionally flakes of dandruff or keratin casts may be mistaken for nits, but a microscopic examination of the material will reveal the distinction. At times, insects can be seen crawling on the hair. Their favourite haunts are the scalp, around the ears or underneath hair grown at the back of the head. Head lice in children can be discovered by frequent scratching on the back of the head, and by verifying the lice and the nits.


However, lice cannot be got rid of only with the help of a comb, they can be destroyed by certain by effective methods only. One of these methods is to soak the scalp and hair for 24 hours with a mixture of equal parts of kerosene and vinegar. The head should be covered with a cap or towel. The head and hair should then be shampooed thoroughly with soap and hot water and dried with a towel. The nits should be removed with a fine comb dipped in hot vinegar. The kerosene kills the lice and the vinegar loosens the eggs or nits, so that they can be easily combed out. This treatment should be repeated two or three times and the hair should be combed with a fine-toothed comb many times between each treatment to remove the loosened eggs. Great caution must be exercised in keeping the child away from a heated stove or a flame because of the danger or igniting the hair.


Another method to destroy the head lice is to dust five per cent DDT powder in 95 per cent inert talc into the hair and scalp. Care should be taken to keep the powder out of the eyes by protecting them with guaze squares.


The entire head should be wrapped in a scarf or clean towel. The scarf should be removed after several hours, preferably at bedtime. The next morning, the hair should be carefully combed with a fine tooth comb to get rid of the nits and dead lice. On the seventh day of the treatment, the hair should be washed with soap and warm water and allowed to dry. Thereafter, DDT powder should be applied again in the same manner as before. On the 14th day, the hair should be given a final shampoo. Normally, two courses of treatment are sufficient. In some cases, it may be necessary to repeat this treatment for the third time.


The third effective method is to thoroughly cleanse the whole body from the scalp to the toes, using plenty of soap and water. Next, five per cent benzy and benzoate emulsion should be applied to all the itching areas. This should be rubbed well into the scalp at night, especially if the hair has been invaded by the parasites.


As the child affected with head lice can infect other children and members of the family, it is essential to examine everyone’s heads and treat them if lice and nits are found. Any head-dress worn by a child with lice should be sterilized by spraying with five per cent DDT solution.

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