Hair-raising facts about
Revulsion and alarm.
These are the typical first reactions of parents whose
children come home from school with head lice.
But experts say parents
shouldn't let panic upend their homes needlessly as they race
about trying to rid their kids -
and possibly themselves - of the sesame seed-sized
to just freak with this, says Steve Pray, a professor at the
School of Pharmacy at Southwestern Oklahoma State University
in the US. One of the first things you have to do in a
counseling session is calm them down. A minimalist approach
is going to be better here.
Millions around the globe affected
you should realize about head lice is you're not alone.
As many as six million to 12 million people worldwide get
head lice every year, according to the US Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. And cleanliness has nothing to do with
who will be the targets of the blood-sucking insects.
Preschool and elementary-age children, aged three to 10,
and their families are infested most often. Children tend to
pass lice along at school when they share hats or play closely
with other kids.
White people get head lice more often than other racial
groups. And girls and women tend to get them more often than
boys or men because their hair is longer, says Dr Mervyn
Elgart, emeritus professor of dermatology at George Washington
Having short hair is a blessing, Elgart says. Lice like to
be warm, and if you've got longer hair it's warmer under
How to get rid of lice
So how do you rid your
child or yourself of these pests?
The first decision is whether to use a chemical
Some experts warn against it, saying the shampoos contain
harmful ingredients. It's a pesticide, and there are safer
alternatives, says Deborah Altschuler, president of the
American National Pediculosis Association. It makes no sense
to shampoo a child with a pesticide.
Altschuler and Pray also warn that the lice shampoos
currently on the market are becoming less effective. We have a
great deal of resistance that's emerging, the same sort of
resistance we're seeing in antibiotics, Pray says. I'm having
people come in and say they've used the products perfectly and
they just aren't working.
Choose the right product
But Elgart believes some
shampoo treatments can be safe and effective. We use chemicals
to color hair. We use chemicals to curl or straighten hair. I
think the appropriate use of chemicals isn't so bad, he
Elgart recommends products that contain the pesticide
permethrin. Over-the-counter treatments contain one percent
permethrin, but Elgart says people with more stubborn cases
can get a five percent permethrin solution with a
Altschuler and Pray suggest people remove the lice and
their eggs (called nits) using special, fine-toothed
lice-removal combs, which pull the insects from the scalp.
Both say people should definitely stay clear of chemical
treatments if the affected children are on medication or are
receiving therapies for Aids, cancer, epilepsy, asthma,
allergies or any other chronic illness.
Combing the hair
Once parents have combed their
children's hair for lice and nits, they should comb their own
hair in the shower, Altschuler says, but not before boiling or
washing the comb between uses.
One problem with combing is that the nits stick to the hair
follicle using a very strong glue. Elgart recommends soaking
the comb in vinegar before using it to help dissolve the
Home remedies can be dangerous
Pray warns people
against home remedies. He's heard of people using gasoline or
kerosene on their children, or pesticides straight from their
garden store. Other home remedies he's heard of involve
coating the head in Vaseline, olive oil or salt water.
They're embarrassed, so they won't come to pharmacists and
get the straight information, he says. It's just incredible
what people do.
The embarrassing thing is not that you've got it. It's not
treating it and having your child go to school and infest
others, Pray adds.
Lice need human blood
If lice strike your family,
don't worry about having your pets treated. Nor should you
coat your house with pesticides. Head lice feed specifically
on human blood, not animal blood, and don't stray far from
their food source.
They're not going to strike out on expeditions to find new
heads, Pray says. Away from a person they're going to die
within 24 hours, because they must have human blood.
But you should vacuum your home thoroughly and wash your
clothes and linens in hot water. These things (lice) are very
temperature-sensitive, Pray says. - (HealthDayNews)
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