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Uninvited Guests – Lice On Children’s Heads
Having lice is embarrassing. At least that’s what most parents think when their offspring fall victim to the little bloodsuckers. But head lice are not a sign of poor hygiene, as many people believe. Yes, they prefer washed hair. But the little beasts are stubborn: to get rid of them again you need a doctor, some chemicals and a good eye!
Whether a large head or a small one, blond or dark-haired – it makes no difference to the lice. However, it is certain that children are most frequently affected. This is because the lice are transmitted wherever heads are put together. That is, when playing, romping and cuddling. It is not uncommon for them to spread like an epidemic in kindergartens and schools. And parents and siblings often also get itchy heads soon after. Head lice are specialized exclusively on humans. They cannot, like fleas, settle in other animal species. Without contact with humans, they starve to death within a few hours, because the adult lice have to eat a small blood meal every two to three hours. To do this, they prick their proboscis into the scalp and drink the blood. To prevent it from clotting at this point, they inject some saliva into the wound. And this makes the skin itch. Much like mosquito bites. But parents can rest assured: lice do not transmit diseases.
Seek And You Shall Find
Lice especially like to stay behind the ears, at the temples and on the back of the neck. The skin is particularly thin here, so they can easily get their hands on the blood they crave. With a sharp look, parents can quickly expose the two to three millimeter large, gray head lice in these places. If they have just “eaten,” they are reddish brown. However, their white eggs, which are less than a millimeter in size and are known as nits, are not so easy to detect, especially in blond hair. The female lice stick the eggs to the hair roots with a strongly adhesive secretion. One on top of the other, like on a string of pearls. Thorough hair washing is therefore not enough to rid the head of lice and nits.
Today, however, it is no longer necessary to shave off a child’s hair to get rid of head lice. Effective lice remedies are available in pharmacies as shampoo, spray, lotion or gel. But be careful! Not all of them are suitable for children. Especially infants and small children, parents should never treat themselves, but take them to the pediatrician or clinic. It is best to go to the doctor with their troubled child at the first noticeable itch. The sooner the better, because the treatment of inflamed lice bites is always more protracted than early therapy. If the itchy spots on the scalp are first scratched bloody, they quickly become infected or an unpleasant rash forms. Sometimes lice infestations even cause the lymph nodes to swell.
Leave Head Lice At Home
A special “Infection Protection Act” prohibits children infested with lice from going to school, kindergarten or sports clubs so as not to infect others. This also applies to teachers and all other persons. Even if there is only a suspicion, those affected should stay at home. And they should do so until a doctor certifies that the danger has passed.
Until The Last Egg…
Most lice remedies only control the living lice, while their eggs continue to develop after treatment. Therefore, parents should additionally remove the nits with a special fine-linked nit comb, which they can also get at the pharmacy. To do this, part the hair with the comb and search the entire scalp in strips – possibly with a magnifying glass. The nits can best be pulled out between the fingertips along the hair or cut out on the affected strands of hair. If only one egg remains, the plague starts again after eight to 14 days. It is therefore advisable to repeat the procedure after about two weeks, or to treat the head with vinegar water: add one to two tablespoons of vinegar to a liter of lukewarm water and rinse the scalp and hair several times; then comb out the still damp hair with a nit comb. This gentler, but more tedious method is also recommended for pregnant or nursing women, who should not use chemical agents.
Better Safe Than Sorry
To completely eradicate head lice, parents should also thoroughly clean the surrounding area. If there is a lot of lice, the little fiends will also stick their nits to caps, hair bands and head scarves, on head mats, blankets or play animals, so that they can also spread via these objects. Therefore, combs, brushes and hair clips should be cleaned with hot water and clothes, bed linen and towels washed at least 60 degrees. Things that should not be put in the machine, such as dolls, cuddly toys or woolen sweaters, can be left in a well-sealed plastic bag for three to four weeks. There, lice and eggs will die. Cold also kills the animals, so you might as well freeze the infested items. Finally, the seating furniture and car seats should be thoroughly vacuumed.