According to Bupa:
What are head lice?
Head lice are wingless insects. They are grey or brown, have six legs and are about 1 to 3mm in length when fully grown. Female lice lay eggs that are smaller than a pinhead and these attach to your hair close to the scalp. The eggs hatch about seven to 10 days later. Young lice are called nymphs - it takes about 10 days for them to become adults and capable of laying new eggs.
When lice hatch they leave empty shells called nits attached to the hair. You may mistake them for flakes of dry skin. Unlike dandruff, nits stick to the hair and you won't be able to remove them with normal shampooing.
What are the symptoms of head lice?
The obvious symptom is an itchy scalp.
Other signs of possible head lice infestation include:
- nits stuck to the hairs as they grow out
- pillows being dirtier due to louse droppings
Anyone can get head lice, but they are most common in children aged four to 11. This may be because of their close contact with each other at school. Girls seem to be more likely to get them than boys.
You can only get head lice through head-to-head contact. They can't hop, fly or swim. Head lice can only live for a short time away from the scalp and those found away from the head are usually dying.
Head lice can be found in all types and lengths of hair - having head lice is not a sign that your hair is dirty. They are found just as often in clean hair.
Treatment for head lice:
Insecticides for treating lice are available as lotions, liquids or shampoos. These are either alcohol-based or water-based and there doesn't seem to be any difference in effectiveness between the two.
Alcohol-based insecticides aren't suitable for everyone, particularly if you have eczema or asthma, so it's usually recommended that you use water-based products. These are also recommended for young children.
Here's the story we ran on WHOI this week:
Head lice is one of the most contagious conditions among children, not to mention hard to get rid of. After hearing reports of lice infestations at two separate schools in Tazewell County, we asked the State Health Department what you need to know to protect your child. They say it's more of a nuisance than a danger, but the stereotype that only people with poor hygiene get lice is false.
Lice just need some sort of direct contact to travel so teaching our kids to share with each other may be contributing to lice outbreaks. Local teachers say girls tend to share combs and clothes and boys share athletic equipment.
The Health Department says the easiest way to treat lice break outs is with over the counter treatments. Heat is another way to kill it around your house so washing contaminated clothes in hot water or putting them in the dryer for 20 minutes will help.
Have any of you had to deal with this? My kids haven't, luckily! Do you have any stories about head lice going around your child's school. I hear it spreads like crazy!
UPDATE: Here's a link to natural lice remedies. Some moms on another blog say they worked for them!