What Is Lice?

Lice are common scavenger insects that have been known to feed on debris found on another organism’s body including the skin, blood and sebaceous secretions. Biologically, they belong to the order Phthiraptera which includes 3000 other wingless insects most of which are obligate ectoparasites. Humans have been known to host lice since hundreds of years ago in the head, pubic areas and the body in general. Lice infestation is thus not a new disease and this condition of being infested with pubic lice, body lice and head lice is called pediculosis.

The body lice, Pediculus humanus humanus has a very distinguished appearance from the head lice, Pediculus humanus capitis. Under laboratorial conditions, they have been known to breed yet in the natural environment, the will not interbreed. Body lice specifically attach its eggs onto clothes while the head lice will attach their eggs on hairy places specifically the basal region of hairs. Biologists have confirmed that the body louse evolved from the head louse and this occurred at the time when clothes originated, a bout a thousand centuries ago.

Personal contact and sharing of personal items like clothing, caps, brushes, caps, combs and others is known to spread lice and as such it is a common disease in school going and preschool children.  Because lice will commonly causes tickling feelings on the body or hair, children who are infested usually report itching, head sores and a feeling of movements in the hair.

The treatment of human lice has been researched for centuries. Pediculosis cases surprisingly have been increasing since the 50’s. In fact, no single treatment method or product can lead to a hundred percent destruction of newly hatched lice or even their eggs. Treatment modalities have to be effected in combination and repetition to achieve success. The range lice eradication methods available include shaving, combing, plucking and, usage of hot air, silicon-based cleaning solutions, natural products and chemical treatments.

What Are The Causes Of Lice?

  • Head lice infestation is so common to an extent that one in 10 school going children acquire head lice at a given point in time. Lice are acquired mostly by contact with infested person, their items and even lice eggs. There are of course those who are at more risk than others. High risk comes to play when contact is initiated with an infested person. Take for instance pubic lice. For sexually active adults, having sexual contact or sharing clothing, bedding or items with an infested person puts one at a higher risk. The parasite known as pubic lice is Phthirus pubis. Pubic lice occurrence in children or teenagers is a sign of early sexual activity or even abuse.
  • Head lice can be acquired by head –to –head contact, contact with clothing and personal items of infested partner. Children are at greater risk. Females get more head lice than men because of keeping hair in which these lice can hide and breed. Blacks also rarely get head lice compared to other races because they mostly keep their hair shot and trimmed. Contrary to popular belief, failure to keep stringent hygiene standards, though highly recommended, has no bearing on head lice acquisition. Head lice are most frequently located near the neckline, back of the neck and the scalp behind the ears. Each of the six legs of the louse has claws with which it will hold firmly onto hair. However, head lice are not found on the eyebrows, eyelashes and other body parts.
  • Lice that infest the body in general, is the body lice (Pediculus humanus corporis). Body louse is small, wingless with sharp claws for holding tightly onto clothing, hair and for feeding.

What Are The Symptoms Of Lice?

A common symptom of lice infestation is itching due to allergic reactions. Lice have to bite the hosts skin in order to feed on its blood and its saliva can cause itching. Depending on the type of lice, other associated symptoms are as below:

Head lice

  • They are identified by white to dark grey spots on the nape of the neck, hair and ear.
  • Frequently scratching will cause sores and broken skin on the scalp. Excess sores may form clear crusts and the lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears may become tender, swollen and painful in response to infection.
  • Irritability

 Pubic lice

  • Pubic lice are always such a big embarrassment. They cause itching of the genitalia as well as the armpits, anus and other surrounding areas. The scratching leads to blue-gray, small, flat maculae cerulae that resemble bruises on the upper arms, thighs, torso ands pubic area.
  • Pubic lice may also be a sign of having contacted a sexually transmitted disease. This is especially so if contacted from a sexual partner. This combination leads to pain in the genitalia, burning, itching and tingling sensations

Body lice

  • Body lice commonly found on clothes will cause itching along body lines where seams of clothes rest on the victim. This also includes the waist, armpits and the bosom.

Presence of lice is easily diagnosed by closely looking at susceptible body parts for any available lice nits, nymph and adults. If nits are found very close to the scalp then it is a confirmation enough that the person is infested. The symptoms of lice infestation are similar to other diseases such as scabies or excessive dandruff and a responsible party should not shy away from contacting a healthcare professional, nurse or even agricultural extension service.

Home Remedies For Lice

Remember, you should always consult with your physician in order to get a proper diagnosis and before trying to incorporate these home remedies and herbal remedies yourself!  Here are some of the home remedies that you can try.

  • Try This- All items that the infested individual has been using should be washed with hot water at temperatures greater than 53.5 degree Celsius.
  • Try This- Combs, brushes and hair objects should be treated in hot water for a minimum of ten minutes. Vacuuming furnitures and other areas in the house can also be of great help in eliminating all lice nits and nymphs in the house
  • Neem plant: Most hair shampoos are made up of neem. The smell of neem keeps head lice away. A person can use the bark or the leaves extracts of neem as herbal remedy against head lice. You can try applying about 20 to 30 ml of undiluted neem oil or even its seeds on the scalp and wait for about 10 minutes before rinsing off.
  • Essential oils: They have been used to treat various medical problems one being scalp and hair problems. Olive oils are used to kill head lice. You can apply it   on  both your hair as well as the scalp  then cover  your head  with a shower  cap  for  about  nine hours  and allow  the it to kill the lice. Apart from using olive oil, you can also use other essential oils which include the rosemary oil, tea tree oil and also geranium oil. Add a few drops of any essential oil in either the shampoo or rinsing water then wash your hair and scalp.
  • Mixture of Limejuice and garlic paste. Apply a teaspoon of a mixture of limejuice and garlic paste in order to kill all head lice. Then leave the mixture for about an hour and rinse with water.
  • Rosemary: This is a beautiful and delicious plant which s used for treating a number of medical problems like head lice. This is why most hair food is made up of rosemary since it is used as an herbal remedy for lice.
  • Lavender: This herb helps is used as an ingredient in most herbal hair food. It is used as a remedy for lice as well as other medical hair problems.
  • Thyme: It contains properties of anti-bacterial nature. It has, over the years, been used to treat many issues including those affecting the respiratory system. Its antibacterial properties allow it to be suitable especially when treating lice.

Sometimes a simple complete hair removal can eradicate all the lice like head lice.  The problem is that many people do not consider this a desirable option.

Other home remedies include using olive oil, rubbing alcohol, prolonged submersion in water, butter, mayonnaise, and vinegar.

Therapeutic means available are occlusion therapy and nit combing.

Diet For Lice

Lice infestation is a purely external body disease with no known dietary control. Nevertheless, for one’s well being, proper eating habits and healthy lifestyle is encouraged

Prevention Of Lice

  • Examining your child at regular intervals will enable you to diagnose lice infestation early enough. Use of a louse comb is common. The importance of early diagnosis in a family is to prevent infesting others, other places in the house and for easier treatment.
  • Keep long hair tidy and constantly clean. If a child scratches hair, then take keen immediate action.
Keep beddings, clothes and other items in your room clean. In general, maintain high hygiene standards. When brushes, combs, beddings, towels, clothes and other items come into contact with the infested individual, leave them outside for a minimum of two weeks and wash in hot water above 60 degrees celcius for half an hour. An adult louse can only survive a few days without blood food and is also dependent on hosts’ warmth to survive.