|Growth stages of the louse|
A few weeks ago a note came home from the local elementary school indicating some pupils had head lice. Because of this, we ordered some books from the library on the topic to read to Isobel. One of these was titled "Yikes-Lice!" by Donna Caffey, with illustrations by Patrick Girouard. The book was published by Albert Whitman & Company in Morton Grove, Illinois in 1998. The forward is "A Note to Concerned Grownups" and is written by Christine G. Hahn, M. D.
This medical expert says, "People sometimes think that head lice are a sign of uncleanliness, but in fact anyone, no matter how clean, can get them. They are easily passed by being in close contact with someone, or by sharing combs, brushes, or hats. Young children have higher rates of head lice infestation than older children and adults. Children between the ages of 3 and 10 are most likely to get them. In this age group, boys and girls tend to be at equal risk. Among teenagers, girls are more often affected than boys. Several treatments are available in pharmacies, over-the-counter, or by prescription. Some studies have suggested that lice may be gaining resistance to some of these treatments. Until research gives us new answers, the best way to deal with lice is to carefully follow the instructions in the lice treatment packages, taking care to thoroughly remove all lice and nits."
Other information provided by the author is as follows:
"The head louse, sometimes called a cootie, lives on the human head. It is a wingless insect about 1/16 to 1/8 inch long, about the size of a pinhead. Head lice (the plural of louse) range in colour from light brown to dark brown or black. They do not live on animals. A head louse crawls, but it does not hop, jump or fly."
"Lice are usually found nested in hair close to the scalp at the top of the head, behind the ears or at the back of the neck. They have six legs, with claws used for holding onto hair."
"Lice require blood from the "host," or human being they are living on, in order to survive. They use their sucking mouth parts to pierce the skin and feed. If left alone, lice will feed quickly and frequently. Without a meal they cannot live more than one or two days."
"The female louse can lay 3 to 6 eggs per day - about 50 to 150 in her lifetime. The eggs, called nits, are very small (about 1/32 of an inch in length), oval-shaped and grayish-white. The female attaches the nits to the hair with a gummy substance."
"It takes seven to ten days for a nit to hatch and the young louse, or nymph to emerge. Soon the nymphs mature into adults. Then the female can lay eggs of her own. Most lice live about a month, long enough to have many children and grandchildren."
"Itching is caused by the feeding louse who punctures the skin, injects saliva and then sucks blood. However, you can have lice and not itch."
"Although they will not hurt you, head lice can be very aggravating. They do not cause other diseases, but if you scratch too much and break the skin, an infection can develop."
"You will need help to check yourself for head lice. Lean forward under a good light. The "checker" can use a comb with a tail to part and lift the hair. He or she should begin at the back of the neck and proceed to each side, lifting the hair in small sections all over the head. Most lice and nits can be seen with the naked eye, but a magnifying glass may be helpful. (Be sure everyone's hands and all the equipment are washed after the examination.)"
"To make sure that lice are completely gone, everything that was exposed must be thoroughly cleaned. Personal items such as combs, brushes, and hair accessories must be soaked in very hot (but not boiling) water for 20 minutes. Clothing, linens and towels should be washed with hot, soapy water and completely dried in the clothes dryer using the hot cycle. Non-washable items, such as some stuffed animals, pillows, bedspreads, bike helmets, and headsets with foam ear pieces should be dry-cleaned or placed in an airtight plastic bag for two weeks."
"Because lice can live from one to two days away from a person, sofas, chairs, mattresses, carpets and car upholstery should be thoroughly vacuumed. Throw the vacuum bag away."
"You do not need to spray the house with insecticide. Remember that lice don't live long away from people and you do not want to expose yourself to unnecessary chemicals."
"Often people get lice in schools or camps or anywhere they are in close contact. It helps if you do not share your combs, brushes, hats, helmets, headsets, or clothes. If you do get lice, you should tell your teachers and friends so they can be checked. You should be checked again every day for two weeks and regularly after that."
"It's not your fault if you get head lice - anyone can! According to historians, head lice have been around for 9,000 years. They have been found on people of all races all over the world, no matter where they are living or how clean they are."
... So, tell me... are you itchy yet?! If not, take a closer look at the photograph and you soon will be!