Head lice are a very common problem and even more so in schools with children aged 4-11. It is thought that more than 1 in 3 children in the UK will get head lice at some point during the school year. Head lice are tiny insects with no wings that live in human hair. They are grey-brown in colour and are roughly the size of a pinhead when they have hatched and the size of a sesame seed when they are fully grown.
Head lice cannot jump, fly or swim and are spread by head-to-head contact. They climb from the hair of the person that is infected onto the hair of someone else. Having head lice does not mean that you have dirty hair or bad hygiene as they can affect all hair types no matter what condition it is in or the length of the hair. Head lice only affect humans and cannot be caught from animals or passed onto them.
In the majority of cases itching is the main symptom of having head lice. The itching is not caused by the lice biting the scalp but rather an allergic reaction the lice themselves. Not everyone will experience an itchy scalp and it is not always easy to see the head lice, therefore detection combing is the best way to find head lice. Detection combing involves using a special fine toothed comb to comb through the hair. This method works best on wet hair but you can also do it on dry hair.
There are numerous head lice treatments now available and head lice can be treated effectively with medicated lotions or by performing wet combing. Wet combing can be done alongside a medicated lotion but this will need to be done regularly and can also take quite a long time to do it thoroughly. Medicated lotions or spray head lice treatments can be used as an alternative but you need to remember that no medicated treatment is 100% effective. Ask your pharmacist for advice on over the counter head lice treatments.
If you use a medicated lotion or spray you should ensure that you have enough to treat the whole family and use enough to coat the scalp and the length of the hair during each application. Follow the instructions that come with the head lice treatment as different treatments require you to leave the treatment on different amounts of time.