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A Clinical Update on Head Lice

Published on September 16, 2020

A Clinical Update on Head Lice

The coronavirus has disrupted lives as we know it. From forcing us to maintain a safe distance from our loved ones to confining us indoors in an attempt to flatten the curve together, we’ve all been driven into a new world order (quite reluctantly), and we’re still scrambling to get our bearings.

But the coronavirus symptoms aren’t the only thing people are scared of contracting. Excessive itching and red ears are also an increasing cause of concern among many in self-quarantine—and the reason is plain and simple. With so many people huddled in one space with increased interaction, lice infestations can spread like wildfire.

Head lice have scoured the face of the Earth for as long as humankind can remember. These creepy crawly creatures have been responsible for snatching away our peace and sanity and leaving us sleep-deprived and irritated. Some have even speculated that it was the head lice instead of the mice which were responsible for the Black Plague that almost wiped out Europe from the face of the Earth.

Suffice it to say, these pesky creatures have been nothing but a nuisance, and we’re all too tired of scratching our heads and losing sleep over them. Children who had head lice are now passing on nits and lice to their siblings in quarantine. Moreover, living in close proximity has also increased the sharing of personal items like brushes, headbands, clothing, and combs among residents—which has further exacerbated infestations among households.

Some would even wonder what the big deal about lice infestations is—after all, haven’t over-the-counter treatments been used for decades to eliminate head lice? While that may have been true, these chemical treatments have become virtually ineffective in the face of a new species of head lice that have evolved to develop immunity for these chemicals’ effects.

Let’s delve deeper into the efficacy of conventional head lice treatments and how they’re closely tied to misdiagnosis and incorrect administration. Finally, we’ll discuss the right way to get rid of head lice with professional lice specialists in Merrick, NY.

But first, let’s take a look at what we’re up against.

Head Lice: The Ultimate Nuisance

Head lice, also called pediculus humans capitis, may not be a primary health hazard, but they’re a societal problem with a range of substantial costs associated with it. These creatures are persistent and can easily cause infestations, especially in school-going children, due to frequent head-to-head contact.

They’re wingless creatures are typically 2 mm to 4mm long with six legs. They live on the human scalp and thrive on the blood and the warm temperature of the scalp. For a lice infestation, at least ten adult lice need to be present on the scalp. Each infestation lasts for up to three to four weeks if left untreated—which means living with constant scratching on your head, that’s enough to drive you crazy.

The blood-sucking head louse feeds every three to six hours and injects saliva simultaneously, which causes the itching on the scalp. The female louse produces five to six eggs per day after mating for thirty days. The eggs, or nits, are glued to the hair shaft, closer to the scalp, to get nourishment and thrive in higher temperatures. The nits hatch after nine to six days and take around nine to fifteen days to become head lice.

Siblings in quarantine at the risk of a head lice infestation

Head Lice Transmission and Infestation

Head lice are transmitted through direct head-to-head contact. They don’t hop or fly but crawl quickly from one host to another.

They can also be transmitted from an object to a host. Even though a louse requires the warmth and blood of the scalp to survive, they can survive for one to two days on an inanimate object without nourishment. As such, if a louse falls from your hair and lands on a couch, the chances are that the first person to sit on the couch in the next two days is at a higher risk of contracting head lice.

Contrary to popular belief, pets are not a common source of head lice. In fact, the lice on pets are very different from the lice on the human scalp. So, if you ever kicked your dog out of the bed because you thought they gave you head lice, its time you apologize and buy them a treat.

Common items that can easily transmit lice include pillowcases, hair accessories, hairbrushes, toys, scarves, and hats.

Once an infestation has taken root, the host experiences a range of symptoms that include:

  • Excessive itching on the neck and ears
  • The presence of lice and nits on clothes
  • Red bumps lining the neck, shoulder, and the scalp
  • A tickling sensation on the scalp caused by the movement of lice in your hair
  • Irritability

Itching occurs when the individual becomes sensitized to the antigenic components when they inject the saliva into our scalp. Although itching is a common symptom of a head lice infestation, it’s not indicative of a lice infestation. In fact, if an individual has an infestation for the first time, they won’t experience itching till about 3 to 4 weeks into the infestation, when it’s well underway.

In addition to that, some individuals also remain asymptomatic and never itch, which makes it harder to identify an infestation. This can lead to misdiagnosing and incorrect administration of head lice treatment.

A Clinical Update: Diagnosing an Infestation and the Problems Associated With It

A definitive diagnosis requires identifying and detecting a living louse on the scalp. Unfortunately, since these pesky creatures move rapidly, it requires a degree of experience and expertise to spot and catch a louse that only lice specialists possess.

The Recurring Misdiagnosis

Unfortunately, a clinical update shows that most healthcare professionals, especially designated officials in schools, are unable to diagnose head lice infestations.

A study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health wanted to test the accuracy of diagnosing head lice infestations in school children since schools are often considered to be breeding ground for transmissions and infestations. The study invited healthcare professionals to submit specimens associated with their diagnosis.

The research concluded that a majority of healthcare professionals were unable to differentiate between active and old infestations. In addition to that, most school nurses solely based their diagnosis on spotting nits understanding the difference between viable and non-viable nits. Nits aren’t a necessary indicator of a live infestation, as they can also imply that the infestation has died down.

Additionally, to categorize an infestation as viable or non-viable based on the nits requires precision and experience that most school nurses may not have. A viable nit is typically found 0.6 cm away from the scalp. To make this distinction, one needs microscopy. Since that isn’t readily available, to base a diagnosis solely on a mere glance at the nit is unreliable and can lead to ineffective treatment.

This was further established by a study conducted in Georgia, which concludes that having more than five nits within 0.6 cm of the scalp is an indicator of an active infestation. Any school going children with less than five nits close to the scalp only get an infestation 7 percent of the time.

A woman with an irritated scalp due to a super lice infestation

The Indirect Consequences

Healthcare workers in the United States believe that head lice transmissions are common and frequent, so the best way to prevent an outbreak in school is to separate infected children to halt the infestation in its tracks. This means that if a misdiagnosis occurs, a child is at a higher risk of getting ostracized.

This leads to a lot of school days being missed where children may be wrongfully deprived of education and learning. A study of attendance records in the United States found that 12 to 24 million school days are lost annually due to the exclusion of students diagnosed based on nits. It makes one wonder if any real harm a head louse does is keeping a kid out of school.

In addition to that, there’s increasing stigma around head lice. Most people don’t fear the infestation itself, but what others will think if they find out about it. Whether it’s because of lack of information or because of common misconceptions that propagate a range of myths (like infestations being a result of poor hygiene), the stigma isn’t doing us any good.

When children are misdiagnosed, they have to face social repercussions such as ostracization, bullying, and isolation upon returning to school after their infestation leave. The blaming and shaming can leave a psychological impact on the child as well.

Seeking Proper Treatment: What Works And Doesn’t Work?

Now that we’ve established that only an experienced lice specialist can be trusted with diagnosing an infestation, let’s get down to the treatment.

Traditional Over-The-Counter Treatments

Head lice have been treated with over-the-counter treatments for decades. These treatments use chemicals, such as permethrin and pyrethrin, to kill the lice. Even though the usage of these treatments often comes at the cost of our hair’s health, many people don’t bat an eye because anything that helps them get rid of an itchy scalp is worth it.

Unfortunately, these over-the-counter treatments are now doing more harm than good. Lice have now evolved, adapted, and turned into super lice.

With the rapid use of pyrethroid-based treatments, lice developed resistance and became immune to these chemicals that would paralyze and eventually kill them. The super lice have a knockdown resistance mutation that desensitizes their nervous system to the impact of the pyrethroids, making them virtually unstoppable in the face of chemicals, and rendering these conventional over-the-counter treatments practically useless.

Home Remedies

From essential oils that can become very toxic if used without diluting to the salt and vinegar mixture that’s supposed to make you lice-free at the cost of stripping your hair of its moisture, home remedies aren’t the best way to get rid of head lice.

You may have found the right concoction of natural ingredients on the internet that a lot of people swear by, but you shouldn’t forget that everyone has different hair textures and health. Why turn to something that’s bound to harm your hair?

At best, these remedies are anecdotal, and there’s no clinical evidence that points to their efficacy for lice removal.

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Wet Combing

The only way to effectively get rid of head lice is through natural treatment that includes visual inspection and wet combing performed by professional lice specialists in Merrick, NY.

Research shows that wet combing is 95 percent effective in the elimination of head lice.

Start by shampooing your hair with the Lice Troopers’ all-natural lice treatment shampoo. The all-natural shampoo is perfect for kids and adults and doesn’t strip your hair of its natural moisture. The nourishing ingredients make your hair soft and easy to manage—making it easier to section the hair and eliminate lice.

A non-toxic and hypoallergenic lice removal shampoo

Once that’s done, you should use the Lice Troopers’ fine-toothed, lice extraction comb to remove lice from one section at a time. The durable, reusable, and easy-to-use comb is designed for regular lice-checks at home.

You should also ensure that you’re under a good light source to see and identify nits and lice properly. You can also cover the shoulders with a towel so that any lice don’t fall out of your hair and land on inanimate objects.

Getting rid of lice is a tedious task, and if you think you aren’t up for it, get in touch with lice specialists in Merrick, NY, that can help you!

Hire the Leading Lice Treatment Services in Merrick, NY

Lice Troopers offer high-quality head lice treatment in Merrick, NY.

Our premier lice removal clinic that offers in-home lice removal services and home inspection and cleaning services. We’re a one-stop-shop for head lice removal for several customers in Merrick, NY.

A durable fine-toothed, lice extraction

We conduct lice screenings in camp and school to minimize misdiagnosis by educating individuals on effective diagnosis and treatment of head lice.

We also offer in-home lice removal services to help individuals get rid of lice infestations from the comforts of their homes while staying safe during the coronavirus pandemic. We take strict preventative measures and comply with all safety protocols and guidelines suggested by CDC to ensure our customers’ health and safety.

Benefit from our natural lice removal services in Merrick, NY, by booking an appointment with us today! We offer same-day appointments and extended evening and weekend hours for your convenience.

Contact us to find out more about our products and services today. Visit our website to get your hands on our lice treatment kits and enjoy free delivery to eliminate the risk of re-infestations at home.

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