Did you know:

Some important facts and information from Peter Francis a hairdresser and trichologist who is not only an expert in head lice and their treatment but has developed a range of organic products, eco.kid, that are designed to prevent the infestation of head lice whilst using them.

Sebaceous Glands are relatively small over most of the body and are usually found at a density of less than 100 per square cm of body surface. These Glands in certain areas, such as the neck, face and scalp however, are much larger and more numerous, with a density of up to 800 Glands per square cm. Children’s Scalps produce almost six times less oil on a daily basis than Adult scalps so they are highly porous.

A Child’s scalp represents an average of 400cm² of skin...approximately equivalent to the surface area of their entire back; however have eight times as many penetrations and eight times the blood supply to its surface. This scalp skin has over 300,000 Sebaceous Glands...all totally unprotected from chemical penetration and dehydration from synthetic detergents, silicones, artificial preservatives, synthetic fragrances and artificial colours...the chemical cocktail we like to call Shampoo. Now add Organo-phosphate pesticides or Pyrethrum based pesticides to this cocktail and you have a product that is not exactly what you would want to be treating your child’s scalp or head lice infection with!

If a kid has head lice there are some very serious consequences: parasitic infestations have been shown to affect cognitive function in kids and to potentially reduce learning performance. For school kids and their families, head lice have an impact in terms of days absent from school, time spent in eradication attempts, psychological distress and individual health.

Head lice are the second most communicable disease suffered by Children. They are extremely distressing for children to get and often end in major social embarrassment for both Parent and Child. Like Polio, Measles, Chicken Pox or Tooth Decay, etc a diligent Parent should be aware of the risks and take action to prevent infestation.

QLD department of health estimates that 33% of Children at any one time are infested with Lice, according to the literature “47.7% had been infested in the previous 6 months prior to examination 1” (1 International Journal Dermatology 1199,38,285-2906) NSW suggest 26%, Vic 16.6%. The study’s conclusion was that, in an urban primary school in Australia , head lice infestation is present at a hyper-endemic level 1” (1 International Journal Dermatology 1199,38,285-2906)

The very notion that we wait and get them and then treat has been fundamentally wrong since the 1920’s when we would douse kids in DDT to kill the lice and again do all the kids at once like dipping Sheep. We should only ever treat those with an absolutely confirmed case of Lice… this should be done without the use of Synthetic Pesticides and especially ones that are in a Surfactant Base (Shampoo) as the Surfactants further break down the skin’s ability to resist chemical penetration.

 
 
 

Head Lice and Nits: Facts and Fallacies

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Don't panic!

Did you know that head lice (the hatched version) or nits (the eggs) are completely preventable with the use of the right products? If you are researching head lice because you or a family member already has them it may not be much fun but it is very treatable. On this page we will try and dispel some of the fallacies and provide you with some facts that will help you prevent or treat an out break in your family or simply put your mind at ease when you next hear about a kid at school with nits!

What are head lice:

  • 'Pediculus Humanus capitis' is the medical term for head lice. Tiny parasites that live in human hair (and neck hairs).
  • They spend their lifecycle on the scalp sucking your blood in a similar way to a mosquito. They in fact graze the skin with their claws and a ring of teeth and suck on the cytoplasm ooze from the wound. Only females need a blood meal for their eggs and so graze deeper than males.
  • They are quite small about 2-3mm long and 1mm wide and light or dark brown in colour and have 6 legs with claws.
  • They like clean and dirty heads of hair.
  • The female louse lays about 4-8 small white eggs (called nits) per night when you are still.
  • Adult lice live for 3 to 4 weeks.
  • They move very quickly when you part the hair to check for them.

Head lice do not:

  • Always cause itching and therefore scratching.
  • Carry diseases.
  • Fly, jump or hop.
  • Live on animals/pets.
  • Live for more than 8 hours away from a human host.
  • They do not live in pillows or mattresses.
  • They don't come out at night!

What are nits:

  • The unhatched eggs of head lice.
  • Yellow/white in colour.
  • Are found stuck to the hair shaft near the scalp where it is nice and warm and ideal for hatching the eggs.
  • They can hatch in 6 to 7days but up to 30 days gestation is required in colder climates. This is why some people treat for lice again in 7days however discover a re infestation one month later. They take twenty eight days to become a breeding adult and molt three times over these twenty eight days.

Signs/what to look for:

  • Itching is not the first sign to look for as you can have no itching at all. Itching is only caused through the graze type wounds that head lice create, “14% of parents or guardians had not noticed the infestation in their kid’s hair 1” (1 International Journal Dermatology 1199,38,285-2906) This is because the kids were not scratching.
  • Small red dots on the scalp or neck usually behind the ears or in the nape.
  • Really tiny black dots on your pillows!
  • Nits/eggs glued to base of the hair shaft near the scalp that will not move. If more than 1cm from the scalp the eggs are most likely hatched.
  • Nits/eggs will have a sand or grit like feel to them when you run your fingers over them.
  • Dandruff or a dry scalp can often be confused with a nit infestation the best way to tell is that dandruff is easily removed.
  • Adult lice running for cover!
  • The appearance of tiny white/brown specks firmly attached near the base of individual hairs. These are the 'nits' or eggs.
  • Always check in a good bright light i.e. sun light and a magnifying glass helps. Part the hair so you can see the scalp.

How do head lice spread:

  • Directly by close head to head/hair to hair, which is why kids are more susceptible. Evidence found in 3 separate studies by the James Cook University in QLD suggests that transfer is highly unlikely through shared combs, brushes or caps.
  • Girls are more susceptible to lice due to their close personal play i.e.. More head to head contact. Clean hair is often more flyaway than dirty hair so this gives more opportunity for hair to hair transfer, however dirty hair may make early identification more difficult.

Preventing head lice:

  • Avoid direct head to head.
  • Keep long hair tied or plaited.
  • If you or your family do get infected treat at once and don't return kids to school until the day after treatment has begun. Remember Mums are often the victims of head lice more than siblings due to the close head to head contact.

Treatments:

  • Modern commercial preparations will usually eradicate infestations in a one step shampooing treatment. Consult your doctor or pharmacist and even those that have already treated this particular outbreak as to what worked in this case as some types of lice respond better to certain treatments. Many modern chemical treatments are now considered ineffective due to lice resistance. As lice breed so profusely it is easy for them to build resistant strains to one specific chemical. Some of the organic products e.g. Eco.kid work in a very different way as they help create an environment that is virtually impossible for head lice to live in.
  • Following treatment remove dead mites and nits with a tine-toothed (preferably metal) 'nit comb' Robi-combs are reported to be quite effective in trapping mites and nits.
  • Head lice are very contagious so it is a good idea to use a preventative treatment at times of high infestation risk (or all of the time).
  • It is unnecessary to wash, dry clean or dispose of any items that came in contact with the infested scalp as lice will not leave the scalp unless they are sick or dying. No insect or animal ever voluntarily leaves its food source, with no way of identifying a further means of survival.

If treatment fails it could be because:

  • You may not have applied the treatment you chose properly.
  • You may not have repeated the treatment as often as the manufacturer recommended.
  • Re infestation may have occurred, this is especially common from another family member.
  • It is widely reported and understood that Pyrethrum and Synthetic variations on Pyrethrum are considered in affective against head lice. Head lice are now globally considered to have become resistant to these chemicals and therefore amplified or prolonged dosage is not effective. The label claims that are on these products are TGA (Therapeutics Goods Administration) listed claims. These claims of killing lice were substantiated at some time in the past and therefore are claimable however there is no continual requirement to substantiate the claim. Therefore even though it is widely accepted that these products may be totally in affective due to the insect resistance, they can still make claims of 100% kill rates etc.

Help my scalp is itching all over this is not a sign of infestation just a consequence of writing or reading all this!!

Thanks to Peter Francis of eco.kids for his help in clarifying some of the facts on this page.

 

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