(Medical condition: Pediculosis Capitis)
Head lice (lice is the plural of louse) is one of the commonest parasitic infestations involving infection of hairy areas (usually scalp) with the adult mites and their eggs leading to varying degrees of skin and hair changes
Points to Remember about Head Lice
· That the lice feed and grow on human hairs especially scalp and lay their eggs in the area. The lice can be seen with naked eye although it is commoner to see the aggregates of eggs (called nits) attached to the shafts of hairs. To check that the structures attached to hairs are indeed eggs of lice, a fairly simple way is to attempt detaching the suspected nits away from the hair. In case of nits, you will not succeed at that but you still can slide nits along the length of the hairs.
· That the infection mainly affects pre-school and school children with more girls being affected than the boys. However, no age is exempt from the condition. It is the hygiene that matters most. The condition is diagnosed on the basis of visual examination and/or symptoms.
· That the infection spreads by direct as well as contact mediated by shared objects particularly combs and brushes.
· That the lice feed on blood and die if they are not fed for a couple of days.
· That the most frequent complaints in head lice infections are
ü Swollen glands
ü Oozing and matting of hairs
· That it is very important to trace the source(s) of infection and treat all contacts simultaneously.
Please do remember that in many instances, there may be no symptoms despite presence of infection.
Prevention and Treatment of Head Lice
It makes good sense for the patient to receive a haircut before starting the treatment.
1. Prior to starting treatment, it should be ensured that secondary infection in the form of ulcers, pus filled lesions, and bumps have been adequately taken care of because the main treatment involves use of medicines which may irritate the skin all the more if used without controlling secondary infection first.
2. Treatment involves application of medication to the whole scalp and all along the length of hairs after washing and combing with fine comb having narrow spaces between the bristles. It must be left in place for one to two nights so that there is a sufficiently prolonged contact of medicine with infected area.
3. From time to time, manual removal of nits with special combs is highly useful as it reduces the overall load of infection,
4. All contacts should receive the treatment simultaneously.
5. Treatment should be repeated week after week until all live mites have been killed and the nits have been removed (takes five to six weeks in most cases). Simple visual scanning is generally good enough for such an assessment..
6. Periodic examination of scalp is necessary to prevent a recurrence.
7. It is equally important to treat the infected person’s head and scalp accessories in appropriate manner to disinfect them. The heat resistant clothes can be machine washed using hot cycle at a temperature of 54 degrees C or higher in water for 20 minutes, or sealed in plastic bags and stored for two weeks. One can soak combs and brushes in alcohol or chemical disinfectant, dried, and followed by sealing in plastic bags and stored again in freezer for two weeks.
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Dr Vinay Kumar
Senior Consultant Dermatologist
+91-93 199 299 00
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