Head lice beware on National Bug Busting Day with Affinity Health
Head lice. These two words alone are enough to send cold chills down the spine of any parent. The good news is that head lice are treatable.
31 January is National Bug Busting Day – a day dedicated to zapping head lice with no mercy and stopping these pesky critters from spreading havoc among communities.
Affinity Health provides tips and advice to help parents and caregivers check for, treat, and prevent head lice infestations.
Head lice usually affect children of school age and their families. These tiny bugs about the size of a sesame seed do not discriminate and can strike any household. Although head lice are a nuisance, they do not carry any diseases or cause any serious illness. In most cases, head lice can be treated at home with a simple medicated lice shampoo routine.
Head lice feed on small amounts of the scalp’s blood. Without a blood meal, they can usually live for one to two days. Lice lay their eggs on hair closest to the scalp. Nits – the name of the eggs and their shell casings – are oval and usually yellow to white. Some nits may blend in with some people’s hair colour (especially blondes), making them hard to see, and are often confused for dandruff or hair spray droplets. With a sticky substance, nits attach to the hair that holds them firmly in place. The empty nits remain on the hair shaft after the eggs hatch.
“One of the first steps in beating hair lice is understanding their life cycle,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health. “Head lice live for about 28 days. They develop in three stages: egg, nymph, and adult louse (also called a nit).”
- Eggs and nits: In six to nine days, the eggs or nits will hatch. Eggs are usually found close to the scalp.
- Nymph: The nymph looks like a grown-up head louse but is much smaller (a pinhead size). Around a week after hatching, nymphs become adults.
- Mature louse: An adult louse can multiply fast and lay up to 10 eggs a day. Newly hatched eggs take only about 12 to 14 days to reach adulthood.
When head lice are left untreated, this cycle can repeat itself every three weeks. In South Africa, thousands of preschool and primary school children get head lice every year. Anyone, however, can get head lice, including adults.
Contrary to popular belief, head lice don’t jump, hop, or fly from person to person. Instead, they crawl. The primary way of propagating head lice is from close, prolonged head-to-head contact. There is also a possibility that head lice will spread through sharing items such as combs, brushes, and hats.
The most common symptom of head lice is itching in the areas where head lice are present. However, after lice get on the scalp, it may take up to four to six weeks before the scalp becomes sensitive to the lice’s saliva and begins to itch.
Regular head lice checks are a good way to spot head lice before they have time to multiply and infest the head of your child.
The best way to do this is to seat your child in a brightly lit room (or outside) and carefully check the hair one section at a time for crawling lice and nits with a fine-tooth comb.
Pay special attention to the back of the neck and behind the ears, as these two areas are often the place to find them. Many other things, such as dandruff, dirt particles, or hair spray droplets, can be mistaken for nits. The easiest way to tell the difference is that nits are firmly attached to the hair (and don’t slide off easily when you run your fingers over them) while dandruff, dirt, or other particles are not.
It is possible to comb-out nits and head lice, but this method takes a very long time and is often unsuccessful in removing all lice. Shampoos designed to kill lice and their eggs are recommended. As these shampoos are medicated, it’s essential to follow the package directions exactly as written.
About Affinity Health
Affinity Health aims to provide premier quality, affordable medical insurance to South Africans. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service when they are faced with injury or illness. We work to deliver innovative solutions that are simple, cost-effective and proven, so our cover is structured to ensure that you get exactly what you need. For more information follow us on Facebook, and Instagram.