What You Need to Know About Head Lice

Has there been a lice infestation at your child’s school? Here’s everything you need to know when dealing with those itchy head crawlers.

How are head lice contracted?

Children are more prone to having head lice simply because they tend to be more often in close contact with other children, through hugs, playtime & naptime, whether at school, during leisure or sport activities or on holidays. That said, adults can and do get lice (usually through their little ones).

Head lice indeed don’t have wings and can only crawl so it takes head-to-head contact for them to transfer to another person’s hair. Head lice can survive for up to 36 hours away from the host, so there’s a possibility that you can become infested by sharing personal items such as brushes, hats and towels. However, the major cause of infestation is by direct head-to-head contact.

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As soon as one of your family members is infected with lice, you should make sure to properly check everyone including you and your partner. They prefer to lay their eggs in the neck area and behind the ears, as they are the warmest parts of the head and therefore provide optimal conditions for the development of the eggs. Generally, they colonize the entire head.

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kit & coco
Credit: Kit & Coco

Are head lice visible to the human eye?

Although head lice and nits are tiny, they are still visible to the naked eye. These eggs, known as nits, are up to 0.8mm long and because they’re so minuscule they can be hard to spot, but adult lice can grow 2mm to 3mm in length. Eggs are round or oval specks that are found attached to hairs near the scalp. They are often mistaken for dandruff or styling products.

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What do they eat?

Head lice feed on blood sucked from their host’s scalp. When they need food, they move close to the scalp and pierce the skin with their mouth, adding saliva to the wound. After ingesting the blood, they pump it through the head and into the intestine. Head lice need food relatively often and when they eat, this can cause an itching sensation as some people suffer a reaction to the saliva.

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Is having lice a sign of poor hygiene?

No, lice feed on blood, not dirt. There are just as many lice found on clean heads as dirty ones! In some cases, we see that they actually prefer cleaner heads! Also, contrary to popular belief, girls, in general, are not more prone to getting them than boys! The length of hair is what may make a difference- as they travel through head to head contact. Large households are more likely to see proliferation.

Greasy hair makes it harder for the them to climb the hair shaft, so they typically prefer clean hair – dispelling the old myth that head lice only infest dirty hair. Certain styling products can help prevent them, as can old-fashioned hair oil.

How fast do they reproduce?

Very quickly. An adult louse lays between 4 to 10 eggs per day, called nits. These eggs hatch about 7 days later giving birth to a new louse called a nymph. The empty eggshells left behind are called nits. After 10 days, the nymphs reach the adult stage and are ready to breed.

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head lice
Credit: Shutterstock

Do they live on animals?

There is no danger of your family pets catching them, as they can only live on human scalps. In the same way, if the family dog or cat has an infestation, the species of lice will be specific to your pet.

For how long can they survive?

Far from their host, they rarely survive for more than 36 hours. They die of starvation or dehydration. This is why we recommend keeping sheets, toys, clothing etc. that may have come in contact with them in an airtight bag for 48 hours before washing to ensure that they are dead and can no longer spread as lice & their eggs can survive in water. However, if washed in very hot water at 60°C or tumble dried for a minimum of 30 minutes at the highest temperature setting, lice & their eggs will die.

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How do they become resistant?

Scientific research has shown that 98 per cent of head lice have become immune to permethrins and pyrethrins – the active ingredients in many over-the-counter treatments available from pharmacies. Due to overuse of these products, the so-called super lice have built up a resistance to the pesticides, leading to a gene mutation. Experts recommend seeking alternative treatments to prevent and cure head lice infestations.

It is actually not necessary to use harsh chemicals in order to get the better of head lice and nits. KIT & COCO for example is a range of products specially formulated with 100% natural COCONUT OIL, avoiding the use of chemical substances like mineral oils, silicones, parabens, and other toxic substances.

Coconut oil is naturally hydrating & nourishing, strengthens hair fibres and soothes irritations of the scalp, leaving hair even softer and shinier than before. On top of these cosmetic properties, coconut oil is a natural, safe and clinically proven way to kill head lice & their eggs, by suffocating them with 100% success rate!

The KIT&COCO treatment actually works by clogging the respiratory system of lice and nits and asphyxiate them. Its shampoo-based formula, which contains no silicone, no MIT (Methylisothiazolinone), no alcohol, no insecticides, or neurotoxic agents – makes it very difficult for lice to develop a resistance.

Children are more prone to having head lice simply because they tend to be more often in close contact with other children, through hugs, playtime & naptime, whether at school, during leisure or sport activities or on holidays. That said, adults can and do get lice (usually through their little ones).

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