Head lice are tiny creatures that cling to human hair, stay close to your scalp, and feed by sucking your blood. They are most commonly found in young children, but have sometimes been known to affect teenagers. Infestation of head lice is also known as Pediculosis Capitis, which is an extremely contagious disease and should be eradicated as soon as signs appear. Having head lice can badly affect the confidence and self-esteem of a teenager, but there are some steps that can be taken to prevent infestation.
Symptoms of Head Lice
One of the earliest signs of head lice infection is an intensely itchy scalp. This itching occurs when the head lice draw blood, as their saliva contains a chemical to stop blood from clotting. Itching also occurs when head lice bites become infected. There are many other conditions that cause an itchy scalp, so you should speak to a doctor if you are experiencing this, but cannot find any evidence of head lice.
Head lice can be difficult to spot because they tend to stay very close to the scalp and lay their eggs right next to your skin. If you suspect head lice, you are more likely to find evidence of infestation in the hair behind your ears or at the base of the skull, near the neck. Eggs, or nits, become easier to spot once they have hatched as they become white, and they will move further away from the scalp as your hair grows.
Finding nits is not a definite indication that you have a head lice infestation as they could just be left over from a past infection. Head lice infestation can only be confirmed if you find a live louse.
Lice Prevention and Treatment
Preventing head lice is always better than getting rid of them. You can avoid head lice by tying long hair back when at school or with friends, only using your own comb or hairbrush, and not sitting or sleeping next to anyone who you suspect may be infested.
There are several options open to you when it comes to treating and eradicating head lice. The first way is using a specially designed lice comb to pull any lice from your hair. This process can be time-consuming and is often more effective if done by someone else. Lice combs are usually fine enough to remove both eggs and lice. Soaking your hair in lots of conditioner prior to starting this process can make it less uncomfortable.
It is also possible to buy medicated solutions to kill any lice before you remove them. These can help to prevent a missed louse from recreating the infestation. If one family member has been infested with head lice, it is wise to treat all family members for head lice at the same time. After treating everyone, you need to do the following to prevent re-infestation:
- Wash all bedding
- Wash any used towels
- Wash any stuffed toys
- Disinfect hairbrushes and combs
Head lice are usually just a nuisance and rarely cause any complications. Long-term infestations, however, can cause you to feel generally unwell because your immune system can become overworked. Scratching head lice bites can cause them to become infected with bacteria, which can lead to impetigo in some cases. Impetigo is a highly infectious disease that must be treated quickly with a course of antibiotics. If you find very crusty, itchy scabs on your scalp, you should see your doctor right away.