Head lice infestations are pretty common with children, because they spread quite easily.
In case you need a refresher, a louse (the singular word for lice) is a tiny insect that feeds on human blood to survive. Because of this, the wingless, six-legged bugs are considered parasites.
Lice start as eggs, or nits. The nits firmly stick to individual hair shafts, and they vary in color from white to yellow or tan – they look a little like dandruff. The problem is, you can’t brush or shake them off your hair.
Once nits hatch in a week or two, the lice are considered nymphs. After seven days, the nymphs develop into sesame seed-sized adult lice. An adult louse changes color from the milky white color of a nit to tan or gray. Once lice fall off a person, they die within two days. As long as they’re still feeding on a person’s blood, a louse can live up to 30 days.
The good news is that lice don’t spread disease. And they don’t jump like fleas. But they sure can crawl fast – and hang on tightly to hair.
More good news is that lice can’t live on animals – so you can’t catch them from or give them to your pets.
The bad news is that lice are really contagious – and irritating. Once a louse starts its blood sucking habits, itching and scratching will begin thanks to a reaction to the louse’s saliva. Red bumps and sores also may develop – beware, because excessive scratching might lead to a bacterial infection.
While I never had lice when I was a child, during my freshman year of high school my head started itching like crazy about a week after I tried on hats for marching band. I didn’t think much of my itching, until one night I scratched and picked a louse off my scalp.
I still remember the feeling in my stomach, like I was plunging down a hill on a roller coaster. Lice. On my head. In my 14-year-old mind, I was so embarrassed and ashamed. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t have done anything to prevent the infestation. So, my mom washed my long, spiral permed hair with Rid, combed all the nits out, and washed everything my head touched. Fortunately, the lice were gone after one treatment. But I’ll never forget the labor intensive cleaning process or the awful itching.
Have you ever had lice before? Have your children? How did the treatment process go?
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