A new school year and another battle between bloodsucking parasites and the children they love to live in, writes Cameron Webb of the University of Sydney.
A new school year and another battle between bloodsucking parasites and the children on whom they love to live.
But the real victims are tired parents and guardians who are trying to protect their children from lice.
Here are some tips for postponing the inevitably difficult task of treating lice as long as possible.
Remind me what lice is?
Head Louse (Pediculus capitis) insects are found almost exclusively in the hair on human heads. These parasites are not found anywhere else on the planet.
They are ideally designed to rake hair up and down, feeding on blood from an infected scalp. They usually feed about three times a day, spending up to 15 minutes in each case.
While their bites can cause mild irritation, lice do not spread the insects that cause us to be sick.
Lice do not live long – no more than a month. Adults lay eggs (commonly known as nits), which usually hatch in about a week or so. This life cycle is simple, but crucial for identifying and eradicating infections.
The eggs are fixedly glued to the hair rods. These eggs, even when the lice hatched, will remain and grow with strands of hair.
This means that the detection of nits at a distance of more than one centimeter from the scalp may not require treatment at all.
Instead, look for living lice. This is the most reliable way to confirm infection. Use a special lice comb from a local pharmacy to simplify your search.
How do children become infected?
Lice do not jump, do not fly or swim. They move from head to head through direct contact, since the strands of hair of two people come into contact, creating a bridge for adventurous lice to a new world.
But lice can be fussy because one study showed that hairs must be specially aligned to allow parasites to jump from one thread to another.
That is why the transfer of lice from one person to another is not as easy as urban myths suggest.
Sharing hats, towels or pillows will not increase the chances of lice being picked up. Nor are they going to crawl around the classroom.
Direct contact is the best way to get infected, so watch out for children overflowing with smartphones and tablets!
Lice do not necessarily have a particular propensity for clean or dirty hair. Short hair is not protected from infection, but long hair means that the chances of picking up lice are greater.
Providing neat hair styling will significantly reduce the risk of lice.
Are lice really a problem in australia?
Lice are a worldwide problem. But in most cases they are more of a nuisance than a health risk.
Studies show that about a third of Australian primary school children can currently have lice. With more than 2.1 million primary school students in Australia, it’s about 700,000 potentially infected children.
It is more difficult to control lice than in the past. International studies show that lice become resistant to commonly used insect repellents. This may also be a problem in Australia, but more research is needed to better understand the situation here.
Alternatives to traditional insecticides, such as plant extracts, may be more useful in the future.
Read more: This is how you beat "indestructible" lice.
Most health authorities in Australia recommend avoiding insecticides and instead offer to wet their hair (or use conditioner) and then comb the lice.
To eradicate infection with head lice, two procedures are needed, each with an interval of about a week. This ensures that adult lice will be killed, then any remaining eggs can hatch, but these newly hatched lice will be killed by the second treatment before they can lay more eggs.
I'm already itching!
Perhaps the biggest health problem with lice is the stress and anxiety of parents and guardians of infected children.
Even before a single louse is detected, a warning about a “flash of lice” in the school note may be enough to cause a violent scratching of the head! There is even a term for this: psychosomatic itching.
Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes to get rid of lice. And regardless of what the social network claims, using mayonnaise, a hair straightener or household cleaners), this is a bad idea.
The most important thing to remember is that lice will not cause health problems and are not signs of poor household hygiene or quality care.
Read more: How to ensure the safety of school lunches in the heat
Cameron Webb, Clinical Lecturer and Chief Researcher of the Hospital, University of Sydney
This article is reprinted from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.