Head lice are small wingless insects that live on the human scalp. They feed by sucking blood, leaving tiny red bite marks that usually itch. They are very contagious. The eggs that they lay on hairs are called ‘nits’.
What are the symptoms of head lice?
Many people experience itching because of the bites. You may also notice:
* Small black dots (lice droppings) on your clothing.
* Groups of tiny, pale eggs (nits) clustered around the base of individual hairs.
* Small white dots (empty cases left after the ‘nits’ have hatched) in the hair.
How are head lice treated?
The best way to search for head lice and ‘nits’ is to use a special comb available from a pharmacy and then:
* Wet the hair with water
* Lean over a sheet of light coloured paper or cloth
* Comb the hair in small sections from the roots to the very end of the hair.
If you find lice or ‘nits’ on the paper or cloth then one of the following treatments is possible:
* Insecticides, available in lotion form from a pharmacist, which need to be applied according to instructions.
* Wet combing or ‘bug busting’, which involves wetting the hair, applying conditioner, then combing it with a ‘nit’ comb for at least 30 minutes every third or fourth day over a two week period. The aim is to remove any live lice and eggs until none are left.
* Ask your pharmacist: some herbal shampoos and essential oils, such as tea tree oil, may be helpful.
If one person in a family has lice, it’s advisable to treat all members of the family.