Now that school is back in session, a common pediatric concern is lice. Lice are those pesky parasites that prefer to hang out in the hairy areas of the body including the scalp, pubic area and less commonly, underarms, eyelashes, eyebrows and beard areas, as well as on clothing. The location depends on the types of lice. They survive by feeding on human blood like bedbugs (which are relatives of lice) and mosquitoes. A dermatologist or other doctor can diagnose the condition and give you treatment options.
Different Types of Lice
There are 3 types of lice: Head lice, Body lice and Pubic lice. You cannot pick them up from pets or toilet seats; and they do not jump or fly.
Head lice are the most common of the lice infestations and can occur in children between 3-10 years of age. They are spread by close head-to-head contact (while playing or sleeping in the same bed, sharing pillows or hats, combs/brushes.). The average louse (singular of lice), are 2-3mm long and lay eggs which attach firmly to the hair shaft close to the scalp or body. These hatch after about 10 days. Even after the infestation has been taken care of, it can be difficult to remove the nits/nit shells (hence, the use of the nit comb). Girls are infected more than boys and it is unclear exactly why but most likely because of girls typically having longer hair. Personal hygiene is not a factor.
Body lice are a little larger and live on clothing (usually in the seams). They can live 30 days away from the human, which is longer than the head lice can (which dies of dehydration after 2 days of not being able to feed). Overcrowding, personal hygiene and the reuse of mattresses, linens and clothing can contribute to the spread. Itching is also a symptom and they are identified by finding them on the clothing or affected items.
These are sometimes called “crab” lice as they look similar to a crab. They live for approximately 3 weeks and the eggs attach to the base of the pubic hair and generally hatch in 6-8 days. They are transmitted by sexual contact and sometimes non-sexual contact by parents to children. They are not as easily transmitted via clothing or linens as body lice. Symptoms include itching in the pubic area, usually more intensely than with the other lice, and more so at night.
Once you’ve been diagnosed
After seeing your Dermatologist and initiating treatment, here are some steps you can take to avoid lice re-infestation:
- Wash the following items in hot water:
- all clothing
- combs, brushes, hair care items/clips/headbands
- Use “nit combs” which are fine-toothed combs that aid in the removal of dead lice/nits.
There are also services that can take care of some of these steps for you.
If you suspect you or your family member has this condition, make an appointment with us and let us help you rid yourself of these “louse-y” pests!