Tiny, wingless insects (PEDICULUS HUMANUS CAPITIS) that live on the human scalp and feed by sucking blood. Infestation with head lice is extremely common, especially among young school children, and is not caused by low standards of hygiene.
An affected child may often pass head lice on to other family members. The insects do not fly or jump but are spread through head-to-head-contact or shared combs, hairbrushes, and hats. Female lice stick their eggs (which are known as nits) to hair shafts, close to the scalp. The nits may be seen as small, white specks; often, however, the first sign of infestation is intense itching due to an allergy to lice bites.
Infestations can be treated with medicated lotions containing insecticides, which kill the lice. Because head lice can develop resistance to particular chemicals, a pharmacist should be con-sulted about local patterns of resistance. For children under two years of age or those with eczema or asthma, treatment should be discussed with a doctor or pharmacist. It is important to treat all family members at the same time. Some people are reluctant to use insecticides repeatedly.
An alternative method of ridding the scalp of head lice is to apply liberal amounts of hair conditioner and comb through the hair carefully with a fine tooth comb to remove the insects and nits. This procedure needs to be repeated every few days in order to be effective and to prevent recurrences. Whichever method is used, frequent inspection of a child’s head is the key to controlling head lice.