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Treatments for Head Lice

by Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

Lice are insects that live on human scalps. They donít cause disease or illness, but they do bite and make the head itchy.

In the past, having head lice was a shameful thing and treatments were severe, such as shaving the head or washing it in kerosene. Now, people are more aware that lice actually prefer clean hair to dirty so having lice is not a sign of being dirty and unkempt.

Head lice infestations are most commonly found in young children as they have their heads closer together; lice canít jump or fly so they can only be spread by physical contact between heads. At the moment, head lice are wide spread across Australia and thus likely to affect most young families.

There are a number of ways of dealing with head lice, but there is no real prevention. Keeping long hair tied back and preventing the sharing of hairbrushes, hats and the like does reduce the risk of catching lice. Vigorous brushing is thought to dislodge some lice, so can be used to stop new infestations taking hold, but wonít remove the eggs.

Common treatment strategies are:

Manual removal

Obviously the cheapest but most time consuming technique is to go through the hair and pull out any lice you find. Lice lay many eggs on the hair shaft and these also need to be removed.

Very fine tooth combs can be used to get rid of both lice and eggs. The most effective way to use them is with hair conditioner. By spreading normal conditioner throughout the hair, any lice are stunned and thus easier to comb out. This process needs to be done every second day for about two weeks to completely get rid of the lice. It is also a useful weekly routine for checking if lice are present.

Electric removal

Commercially available combs are now available that can kill lice. AA batteries put a small charge across the teeth of the comb that will electrocute the insects as it removes them.

These combs donít hurt the person being treated and can be used at any time. They can be purchased from chemists for about $65.oo each. This becomes less expensive if you consider children will be exposed to lice for many years.

Natural Treatments

Tea Tree oil kills lice. The oil can be used to wash the hair, but this requires a lot of oil if the hair is thick or long. In some warm water, it can be used as a rinse for hair as a regular treatment. Alternatively, soak cotton wool in tea tree oil and wipe the infected areas - this should kill lice it contacts and prevent infections of scratched bites. Leaving the oil in the hair for  half an hour with a towel wrapped around it all gives a better result that rinsing it straight out.

Tea tree oil can also be added to your normal shampoo and conditioner so that it acts as a preventative each time hair is washed. This will reduce the chance of parents and other children catching live from an infected child before anyone realises lice is in a school childís hair.

There are some commercially available lice shampoos based on natural treatments like pyrethrum. These can be a foam for dry hair or a shampoo and can be highly effective with less risk of side effects.

Chemical treatments

Chemical treatments are available from chemists and some local council health departments.

Most will kill only the lice and thus need to be reapplied 7 and 14 days later to kill the newly hatched lice; some claim to kill the eggs as well.

These lotions and shampoos are often strong and best used in a ventilated area Ė a glass shower screen holds the fumes in and they can be overwhelming.

There are many different species of lice and these treatments aim to kill as many species as possible. However, each one will not kill every type of lice so some of these shampoos will not seem to work. Unfortunately, it is a hit and miss process to see which one will work in any given case.

Which ever treatment method you choose, be aware that lice may a recurring problem in your family and a mixture of methods may be required over time


Tash Hughes is the owner of Word Constructions and is available to solve all your business writing problems! From letters to policies, newsletters to web content, Word Constructions writes all business documents to your style and satisfaction.

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