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Head Lice FAQ

We know you have questions. Head lice is not something people take lightly. We have done our best to compile answers to every possible question. Please read the following information.

Are lice dangerous and do they carry disease? Lice will cause itching and a rash, but there are few serious health risks. Mostly, it is an embarrassment issue.

If I keep my child clean will they still get lice? Personal hygiene has little to do with it. Lice can survive 24 hours underwater and they are not killed by soap and water.

How are lice tranfered from person to person.: Lice are transferred by contact, transfer through another device (such as a comb, hat, furniture and or bedding). Lice cannot fly or leap.

Is using a lice shampoo enough? No. Lice leave behind their eggs which are not killed by shampoos remain alive. They will hatch after about 7-10 days. If they are not removed after you shampoo it is likely you will be reinfested shortly.

Will you know right away if you have lice? It takes your immune system 4-6 weeks to develop a sensitivity to louse saliva. Meanwhile a female louse can lay 6 to 10 nits a day. By the time you find out, several generations of lice may be in residence. A visual inspection will let you know if you or your child has lice. You can't rely on the itching because it begins much later.

How hard is it to kill lice on furniture?: Off of the body, lice can only survive for a day or two. Nits that hatch will die if they don't find food within hours. This means de-lousing furniture is easier than delousing a person. Regular lice sprays should have no trouble keeping your furniture lice free.

Should I fumigate after my child gets lice? Fumigating won't be effective because all of the humans won't be present. Lice live on humans and animals. Fumigating the house will be ineffective. Fumigation also has no effect on the nits (unhatched eggs). Concentrate on the hair, bedding, hats, toys, and furniture instead.

Will Vaseline kill lice? Using petroleum jelly may smother lice, but it will take forever to remove the Vaseline from your hair. You might also find it is ineffective in destroying nits. Every year we receive desperate calls from parents asking how to remove the Vaseline from their children's hair. We still don't know.

Will mayonnaise and a shower cap kill lice? This is gross. It is also ineffective.

Do I need to shave my child's hair?: Hair removal can help the problem, but it may be traumatic to your child. You will do better to use a lice shampoo and carefully comb out the nits. Leave the shaving for when you send them off to the military as a teenager.

What about prescription lice medications like Lindane? Lindane is a dangerous, prescription-only lice treatment. This drug has a checkered past. 18 years ago consumer advocates petitioned the FDA to have it removed from the market. It is linked to reports of seizures and even death from improper use. Consumer Reports suggests throwing away a prescription for Lindane. "Besides" they say "it is not as good at killing lice as the over-the-counter products".

Are people really foolish enough to try to use Kerosene or Gasoline to kill lice? Every year someone manages to kill or maim a child because they believe that gasoline or kerosene is an effect lice killer (they are not). The last case we know of was a 13 year old girl from Lorimor, Iowa. The volatile fumes will combust. These products should not be applied to the hair (or other parts of the body).

What should I do with my child's toys? Place stuffed toys in plastic bags, seal them and leave them for 14 days. This is enough time for any nits to hatch and the lice to die.

How should I treat my child's clothing and bedding? Wash clothing and bedding at high temperature and dry using a high temperature dryer setting.

How should we handle the family furniture? Set aside a space for your child to sit. Put a sheet over that spot and wash it as described above daily.

If one of my children gets lice will everyone? With proper care you should be able to keep the rest of the family pest free.

Which lice products do you recommend? We recommend Nix Shampoo and spray (usually the family pack is best). We also really, really like the Lice Meister comb. It is by far the best. For professionals and those with bad eyesight we recommend the robi-comb because it helps detect the nits and zaps them as well.


Other Interesting Facts About Lice

Interesting Fact: African Americans do not generally get lice. Their hair shafts are of a different shape which lice have trouble adhering to. In Africa however, the lice have adapted to this hair shaft and Caucasians are immune.

Interesting Fact: Over 80 percent of schools will have a lice outbreak each year.

Interesting Fact: Some mummified remains of ancient Egyptians showed evidence of lice.

Interesting Fact: 10-12 Million Americans will be infested with lice each year.

Interesting Fact: Lice are thought to becoming more resistant to pesticides. Some areas consider the problem to be an epidemic. Southern Florida seems to be among the most strongly affected.

Interesting Fact: Lice and Nits will die at temperatures over 130 degrees Fahrenheit. So washing cloths in hot water or using the dryer can effectively eliminate the problem.

Interesting Fact: The word Lousy refers to something that is infested with lice. Louse is the singular of lice. The slang use is more common such as "having lice is lousy".


References:

Parents: September 2000, "Bug Off", pg. 83-85.

Time: September 25, 2000, "The Nit Detector", pg.104

Consumer Reports: February 1998, "Parents Scratching Their Heads", pg. 62-3

Time: January 12, 1998, "A Lousy Nitpicking Epidemic", pg. 73-4

Good Housekeeping: July, 1999, "Send Pests Packing", pg. 150

John Hopkins Family Health Book, 2000, Harper Collins, pg. 1305-6, 861, 1106, 1305

Isdera Corp. 1997-2001 experiences of staff and customers.