Treatment advice for head lice and nits

There aren’t many other ways to say it: head lice, nits, lice – whatever you want to call them! – are an absolute nightmare for anyone unfortunate enough to come down with an infestation, making life just plain miserable. Much like those other petty annoyances, mosquitos, it’s very hard to even try to prove their very existence. Fortunately, head lice treatment has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, meaning that we now have far more options for treating these little beasts than we’ve ever had before. Typical head lice treatments include drying out the eggs and lice, combing them out of the sufferer’s hair, or even using special shampoos and hair solutions to kill off the eggs so no more of the nasties can hatch! While only one FDA-approved hair-drying head lice treatment is now on the market, many are sure to follow, and we’ll detail a few more head lice treatments on this page.

Head lice Treatment’s Early Days

The latin name for head lice is Pediculus humanus capitis, and when you’re talking about a lonely no-friends beast all on its own, it’s called a head louse. As stomach-churning as it sounds, their whole reason for existing is to feast on the blood-rich field that is your head; reason enough to start seeking out head lice treatments! It may not give you much relief to know that at least we humans aren’t alone, and nits exist for pretty much well every animal and bird species out there. You might find it interesting to know, though, that once a louse is on your head, it’s not going anywhere else; unlike fleas, nits can’t jump from one host to another, and so whichever head louse treatment you use against your unwanted guests, it’s good to know that your lice won’t be jumping on to anybody else at the first sign of trouble.

Nits typically feed from your head at least 4-5 times a day, and it’s their bites that become so itchy and scratchy, resulting in our strong desire to find a nit treatment that really works – and quick! All of this isn’t to say that it’s impossible for head lice to travel from one person to another; it’s just that they do so by crawling from hair to hair, and not by jumping across the room. This is a basic run-down of head lice and what they’re about. Here are some further tips and facts to know about nits:

1. Head Lice Treatment Shouldn’t Be Used Unless You’re Certain

It’s pointless putting yourself or your child through head lice treatment unless you’re absolutely certain that head lice are the reason that you or your child are suffering. Even though side-effects from treatment can be rare or minor, it’s best not to expose yourself to any risk in life unless absolutely necessary. It’s estimated that there are hundreds of millions of infections by head lice each and every year, so at least you’re in good company. While there are many friendly hair treatments out there, why force yourself into a position unless you really need to?

2. Heated Air Works Fantastically Well

Does “heated air” sound suspiciously like using a hair dryer to you? If so, congratulations, you win the prize for seeing through marketing huff and puff, as that’s exactly what it is. The heated air will dry out – desiccate, in the proper scientific lingo – the lice and eggs, killing up to 98% of eggs, and 80% of the nits themselves. It’s a long-term commitment though, as you’ll need to do it repeatedly, daily through to once every seven days, to coincide with egg hatching, and this needs to happen over the life cycle of a typical infestation, which is on the order of around a month, or four weeks.

3. Combing As A Head lice Treatment

The simplest solutions are often the simplest, and when it comes to using a comb for head lice treatment, it’s pretty effective. So what’s the downside? Well – it’s another time-heavy commitment, as you need to brush the hair for anywhere from an hour to an hour-and-a-half each and every day. You can use water and shampoo to make the process that bit easier.

4. Electric Combs Also Work

Have you heard about using electric combs for head lice treatment? The magic here is that they use a tiny electric charge to kill the lice. They’re typically powered by a small battery, with alternating positively and negatively charged prongs, that zap the critters as their bodies close the circuit. Such metal combs can work really well on long hair, although for short hair, plastic non-electric combs are most often recommended.

5. Medical Head Lice Treatment, Including Shampoos

To be precise, such shampoos could more accurately be called insecticides. But don’t let that put you off: the name just means that they kill insects, in this case the nasty nits living in your or your child’s hair! The downside is that some shampoos can irritate the skin or cause allergic reactions. If that’s not enough, true effectiveness appears to be a bit hit or miss, with regular combing apparently making the real difference in effectiveness.

Head Lice Treatment – What’s Best?

The most effective head lice treatment currently available for long hair seems to be either metallic combs, or a metallic electric comb. For short hair, a plastic comb should be effective. The main annoyance is that these need you to invest an awful lot of time in combing out the nits and their eggs. I can’t imagine getting my toddlers to sit down for that long, so you may have to spread many combing sessions out over the course of the day. The good news is that this is a head lice treatment that works and works successfully, so don’t be put off – you’ll get there in the end!

What else can we say about head lice treatments?

Other than the many different varieties of head lice hair treatments, if you want to go to the extreme end of getting rid of head lice, shaving the head completely clean is always option. That said, this may not be the perfect treatment out there, as many schools will tell students with a “skin head” look to go home, and suspend them until their hair has grown back. Society also dictates that girls should have long hair, and shaving your child’s hair as a head lice treatment may single them out for negative treatment by their friends and peers at school – and that’s ignoring any possible punishments from school teachers or other staff!

Schools also often completely exclude children who have head lice, refusing to let them come back until any and all evidence of the child having a nits infestation has been removed. Sometimes these are called “no-nit” policies, and recent data suggests that four out of every five schools at present has a policy about refusing access to children with head lice.

Historically, the term nit-picking was used to describe the tedious head lice treatment of physically picking at someone’s nits with your own fingernails to try and remove the lice infesting a person’s hair. The annoyance is that nits cement themselves to the individual hairs, which is why a regular hair brush doesn’t work as a head lice treatment. Thanks to this being such an incredibly dull way of spending one’s time, the term has passed into modern meaning as someone particularly pedantic, who searches for the tiniest or most minor of mistakes or wrong facts, and then going on to complain about them. After reading more about the physical practise of nit-picking, it’s understandably why!

Another frustrating fact about nits is that they’re not actually that strong to start off with; nearly 2 in every 5 developing head lice will die before they even hatch from their egg (they’re referred to as nymphs at this stage). And yet still they thrive on people’s heads! A single louse can expect to live for up to 30 days – pretty much well a full month of living on your head and feasting away. Once they’ve finished eating, the lice excrete the blood they’ve digested as a red powder called frass.

Nits can be found anywhere on the scalp, but it’s a fact that they prefer the area towards the bottom of your neck, and towards the sides of your ears. Where possible, head lice will lay the majority of their eggs in these areas. As an aside, head lice really don’t like light, and they’ll move into the shadows whenever possible if they’re under direct bright light.

As we’ve mentioned above, head lice can’t jump from one person to another, instead having to crawl from one hair to another. It’s for this reason that children are vastly more likely to get infected. Once they’re there, though, head lice can also get transmitted via bed sheets or towels – pretty much well any common household item that is like to come into contact with hair. This means that even favoured toys must be checked for nits, although this can be useful for younger children, showing them that even their toys have to have their hair combed!