All about headlice
- Female lice lay between 5 and 10 eggs a day that attach to the hair with a strong glue.
- Eggs hatch in around 7 days and leave behind empty cases called nits. Nits are white.
- Live lice are light brown and are just big enough to be seen crawling around.
- Live eggs are brown or grayish.
- Headlice can’t jump, fly or swim but they can crawl very quickly from one head to another.
- The most common symptom is itching especially around the hairline at the back of the neck and behind the ears.
Prevention and treatment
If you find headlice on a child, a suggested treatment plan involves using a combination of insecticide treatment as well as regular combing:
1. Remove lice and nits
- Comb through small sections of the hair using a fine-toothed comb to remove lice and nits.
- Applying normal conditioner to dry hair can make this process easier as the conditioner stuns the lice for about 20 minutes.
2. Use special shampoos
After combing, use an insecticide-based treatment to kill lice. Special shampoos, lotions or sprays containing insecticides are available from pharmacies.
3. How to use insecticide
Use the insecticide exactly as stated. In particular, check:
- The amount of water to use
- How long to leave the product on the hair
- Whether or not a hairdryer can be used to dry the hair after treatment
- If the treatment needs to be repeated.
4. Repeat process
After using an insecticide-based product, repeat the combing/conditioner process.
5. Prevent re-infection
To help prevent re-infection:
- If more than one person in a home has headlice, treat them all at the same time
- Tell other children who your child plays with and their pre-school or school
- Lice will die quickly when off a person’s head but if you’re worried about brushes and combs, hats and pillowcases, wash them in water in at least 60ºC or spin them in a dryer set to hot.
What not to do:
- Don’t use insecticides for “just in case” times. They should only be used when you know there are insects to kill.
- Don’t use headlice treatments if you are pregnant and keep them out of reach of children.
- Don’t use headlice treatments on someone with asthma or sensitive skin without checking with your pharmacist first.
- Don’t use pet shampoo on people.
- Don’t use kerosene to treat headlice; it is a highly dangerous, flammable substance.
- You shouldn’t have to cut off or shave the hair. Keeping long hair tightly plaited may help to avoid lice.