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What are Head Lice Causes & How to Get Rid of Head Lice Fast?

How to get Rid of head Lice

What are Head Lice Causes & How to Get Rid of Head Lice Fast?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Mavra Farrukh

Overview

Before you start making notes on how to get rid of lice, let us know more about these small nibblers that are the reason for parental headaches. Lice come from different geographic regions, depending on their type. Most familiar are head lice, which are tiny and unpleasant but essentially harmless and feed on blood from the human scalp. They may be grayish-white. But once they are filled with blood, they look red. Head lice do not have wings. They do not jump, but they can move very fast. This makes it hard to find them in the hair. 

They cannot survive without a host, so the only way to get these head lice is when you are in direct contact with a person who is infested. Or another way of getting them is if you are sharing personal hygiene items such as a hairbrush or towels with a carrier. Other types are public and body lice. 

It is embarrassing for people to have lice because it directly compromises the integrity of their hygiene. 

Now that we have established the basics of lice infestation, it is time for us to shed light on the prospect of how to remove lice from hair permanently. 

How Do You Get Lice?

Lice are parasitic bugs that live on the human body. They are highly contagious. While lice do not carry any disease, having them can be itchy and uncomfortable.

Head-to-head contact with an already-infested person is the most common means to get head lice. One-on-one contact is most common at home, during play at school, slumber parties, and camp. You can also get head by sharing clothing or belongings.

You may also get lice through personal items, such as:

  • Hair accessories
  • Headphones
  • Pillows, towels, and upholstery
  • Hats and scarves
  • Brushes and comb

Head lice may also spread when clothing is kept together. Scarves or hats on the same hook or placed in the same school locker could spread lice.

Although it is difficult to calculate how many people get head lice per year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that there are about 6-12 million cases in each calendar year among children of age 3 to 11.

Lice can only survive outside your head for only 24 hours, but they come from direct head-to-head contact in most cases. If someone in your circle has lice, they likely got it from a friend, stranger or some family member with whom they had close contact. 

How to Check for Lice?

Knowing how to check for lice is always essential, especially in children. Head lice can cause dandruff, eczema, an itchy scalp, or even allergies to shampoo and other hair products. Enlisted are the ways to check for lice:-

  • Use a bright light torch to look at the crown of the head, Bang behind both ears Nape of the neck. 
  • Place gloves on your hands and use your fingers to separate hair and develop apart.
  • You can see the person’s scalp through part. Now check for lice (dark in color), which may be crawling on the scalp.
  • Check for nits near the hair follicle about ¼ inch from the scalp. Nits (eggs) will be white or yellowish-brown. Nits are often more easily seen than lice, especially when the person has dark hair. Also, look behind both ears and near the back of the neck. You may see lice or nits and bites.

You can also check for lice at home if you are doubting that your child has head lice by using a fine-toothed comb or special head lice comb on wet hair.

Have an Itching Scalp? Concerned, It may be Lice? Consult one of our Doctors Online for Diagnosis and Treatment.

How to Remove Lice From Hair Permanently?

When faced with a lice problem, the first thing that comes to mind is how to remove head lice permanently. Fortunately, multiple products can help you to eradicate them. 

If someone in your family is with head lice, and you are looking for the best solutions for these pesky insects, all you need to do for lice removal is comb the nymphs, nits, or adult lice from your loved one’s hair with a lice comb. However, there are some effective prescription and nonprescription medications you could consider.

Also, catching the problem early on is critical. If the child just came back from an overnight stay with their friends, and one of them has lice, there is no reason to panic. You can get rid of the lice timely and permanently by dealing with the issue early. All parents need to do is comb out the child’s hair in the morning and evening for around three weeks.

Some parents or caretakers may also consider pairing combing with home remedies. Almost all home remedies for lice involve some method of suffocating insects. We always recommend trying home remedies to see whether they work for you. 

Here are the following things to avoid while getting rid of head lice permanently

  • Don’t use a hair dryer to dry your child’s hair after any lice treatment. Few treatments may contain flammable ingredients, and the hair dryer can also blow those tiny lice over to someone else’s scalp.
  • Don’t wash your child’s hair before and after applying lice treatments, at least for one to two days.
  • Don’t use the same medication over and over again. 

Lice vs Dandruff

Understanding the differences can help you treat your scalp condition properly.

Dandruff and lice are two normal conditions that affect the scalp. Lice and dandruff have different causes, and they require other treatments.

  • Lice are contagious bugs that exist in three forms:

         Nymphs or young adults are small, tan-colored insects hatched from nits

         Eggs, also called “nits:” are tiny white specks

         Adult lice, which are still extremely small

  • Dandruff is a self-contained scalp that causes flaky skin or scales on your scalp. It is non-contagious and tends to run in families. 

Shape

Lice have six legs, usually tan, brown, or black. Their eggs look like teardrop-shaped eggs that may be white or yellow. 

Dandruff is white or yellow dry skin flakes, typically more extensive than lice and their eggs, and may appear greasy. 

Check

It would be best to examine the scalp to check whether you have lice or dandruff. If you have dandruff, your scalp will appear very dry or oily. The flakes will come from the scalp and can be easily brushed away.

The lice eggs are firmly secured to the hair and cannot be brushed away. 

Lice bites cause intense and severe itching, whereas dandruff itching feels like uncomfortable dry skin.

Size

Dandruff and lice are extremely small, but dandruff flakes are comparatively bigger than lice.

Talk to one of our Doctors Online for Expert Advice and Guidance on How to Get Rid of Lice Permanently.

How to Get Rid of Lice Naturally in one Day?

Although it is not usually possible to eliminate lice in one day, an infestation must be treated. However, these are the following treatments that can help to get rid of lice more quickly:-

  • Lice infestations must be treated by improving hygiene.
  • Rinse hair thoroughly by using warm water. 
  • You can use Apple cider vinegar with warm water.
  • Use a nit comb to remove lice. After that, wash off your hair with warm water.
  • Smothering agents. Many standard home products, such as petroleum jelly (Vaseline), olive oil, butter, or mayonnaise, may kill lice by smothering them. Apply these products to the scalp and hair, cover it with a shower cap, and left on overnight.

How to Treat Head Lice?

Natural Ways to Remove Lice

If you prefer natural treatment over pharmaceutical products, there are a few options for you. But these are not scientifically proven, so they may not remove lice permanently.

Tea Tree Oil

This is one of the most known natural treatments, but experts are still trying to find convincing evidence. This product is strong and hence can have dangerous side effects. You should not apply it in pure form to young children, pregnant women or babies. A light spray of moderate tea tree oil on the hair before school can discourage your child’s head lice from choosing his head as their next host.

Vinegar

It contains acid, which may kill young lice, but not adults. It may remove the nits, as its acetic acid properties loosen the glue that holds them to the shaft. Which makes combing out and removal of sticky eggs easier.

Olive Oil

Few studies reveal that olive oil can work as an effective treatment for lice. But it can take more than eight hours for the lice to die. Olive oil treatment is ineffective in destroying nits. At the same time, combining olive oil with vinegar could loosen the nits.

Heat

Using hair straighter’s heat for your child may kill the lice but not wholly, as most live near the scalp. The straightener technique can permanently cause damage to the delicate hair follicles and hairshafts.

Patience and conditioner

This is one of the most influential and non-pharmaceutical treatments. Apply any white-colored standard hair conditioner and patiently comb out nits and lice using a special nit comb. The white color conditioner slows lice down and can be spotted easily. 

Treatment with Lice Medicine

Pediculicides are available for lice treatment over the counter or with a prescription. They include lotions, shampoos, and cream rinses.

Both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) product treatments may kill and remove live lice and their eggs (nits).

Note: Use only the recommended amount or combine products. 

Prescription lice treatments include

  • Ivermectin (Sklice). With just one use, the lotion kills most head lice, even just-hatched lice, 
  • Benzyl alcohol (Ulesfia). This lotion kills active lice, not eggs. 
  • Malathion (Ovide). This powerful lotion paralyzes and kills lice and some lice eggs. 
  • Spinosad (Natrona). You usually need only one treatment. It kills nits and live lice. 

How to Prevent Lice?

The undermentioned steps can be followed for the prevention of head lice:

  • Do not share combs, brushes, or towels with others—Disinfest brushes and combs used by an infected person.
  • Avoid hair-to-hair contact while playing and other activities at home, school, slumber parties, and camp.
  • Do not share clothing such as coats, sports uniforms, hats, scarves, hair ribbons, or barrettes.
  • Do not lie on couches, pillows, carpets, beds, or stuffed animals that have been in contact with an infected person recently.
  • Vacuum the floor and furniture, mainly where the infested person sat or lay. 

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

Not everybody is comfortable using chemical head lice treatment. In such a case, you may try one of the following. 

Remove the Lice with a Comb

Often, parents or caretakers may confuse dandruff with lice and vice versa. One of the efficient ways to get rid of these tiny insects for good is to use a special lice comb. Wet-combing is one of the most effective and traditional ways of removing lice from a child’s hair. According to experts, wet-combing helps make the insects more visible. Using a special lice comb, you will spot the insects and remove them properly. 

Moreover, a lice comb is typically cheap. So, you will also save money on expensive treatments that cost more and contain potentially harmful chemicals.

To perform wet-combing, spray your child’s hair with a special conditioner. Next, use special lice comb to remove individual insects. Sometimes, you may also need a magnifying glass to see the lice. On the downside, using a lice comb can be time-consuming. If you are impatient, consider another natural lice treatment.

Are you Pregnant or Breastfeeding and Suffering from a Lice Infestation? Ask one of our Online Doctors to Recommend a Safe Product or Medication.

Try Suffocating the Lice

An effective natural lice treatment is almond or olive oil to suffocate the insects. However, remember that treatments that involve “smothering” lice only stun the insects and make them easier to catch on your comb. That said, it is an effective and cheap way to help your child.

If required, re-apply the oil. We do not suggest using mayonnaise or vaseline, as these can create an unnecessary mess and may be challenging to wash out. Some individuals may also recommend coating the lice comb instead of the hair. You can experiment with different methods and see what works best.

Begin by separating your child’s hair into tiny sections. As you perform the lice removal, move the hair sections out of the way with a hair clip. Once you have finished combing out the child’s hair, wash it with traditional shampoo. Rinse and repeat, and finally, dry the child’s hair.

Whenever doing this natural lice treatment, wash the used towels thoroughly. We also recommend cleaning the comb by soaking it in a bleach solution mixed with Lysol. Alternatively, boil the lice comb in water for 10 minutes or soak it in vinegar for around 30 minutes.

Repeat this procedure each day for seven days. After this, check the child’s hair every night to ensure the lice removal was successful.

Clean Around Your Home

Another fool-proof way to ensure your child stays free of lice is to wash or clean anything that could have been in close contact with the individual who has lice. For instance, you will want to clean or wash pillowcases, combs, brushes, and hats. Also, place your child’s non-washable items, such as stuffed animals, into a plastic bag. We suggest cleaning the lice-infested thing in 130°F (54°C) water, placing it into a hot dryer for around 15 minutes, putting it into an air-tight plastic bag, and allowing it to stay there for two weeks. This process will effectively kill any nits and lice. 

On top of that, try to vacuum furniture and floors where the insects may have fallen.

Are you Thinking About How to Get Rid of Lice in Your Home?

Lice can come off your body and crawl onto things nearby, like towels, bedding, and hats. They do not live long enough because they need human blood to survive. Try the following tips to treat lice:

  • Use heat. Wash any items used or worn in hot water, and try to dry them at high temperatures. Lice and nits die if exposed to temperatures greater than 130 F for more than 5 to 10 minutes. Wash anything that touches the person’s skin and scalp, including jackets, sheets, hats, headbands, scarves, and pillowcases.
  • Bag items in plastic. Seal items in a plastic bag for two weeks if you cannot wash them.
  • Vacuum. Vacuum sofas, rugs, other furniture, and floors to remove hair that can have active lice and nits.
  • Clean hair tools. Soak combs, brushes, and other hair accessories in warm, soapy water for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Don’t use insecticide fogs or sprays. These fumigating treatments can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through your skin.

If you have lice, do not be embarrassed. It is that you or your child is dirty or has a disease. Even the most hygienic of people get it. Inform teachers and friends so they can prevent the spread by checking kids and classrooms and stopping these pests.

Flea vs lice

Lice and fleas are two types of ectoparasites that live on the body of both humans as well as animals. Their bites can be painful and cause itchiness and swelling. Both fleas and lice are parasitic infestations that can often trouble humans: adults, children, and animals.

Fleas are agile, dark-colored with tubular mouth-organ adapted to feed on the blood of their hosts. Their legs are long, and the hind pair is well adapted for jumping: a flea can jump up 18 cm (7 inches)and horizontally up to 33 cm(13 inches).

Fleas commonly affect cats and dogs but may also infest humans and other animals if there is no excess to the dogs or cats, or the cats and dogs have been removed.

Head lice are wingless, tiny parasites that live and feed on blood from your scalp. Head lice are the most common infestation that humans face.

They primarily affect elementary and preschool children, who unintentionally infect each other and people in close contacts, such as family. However, having a head lice infestation is not a sign of bad hygiene or unclean surroundings. It is an itchy infestation primarily spread through close contact and by sharing personal belongings.

While both are parasitic infections, there are specific differences.

Host

The main difference is, Humans are the primary host for Lice, but they may infest pets. Comparatively, Pets are the primary host for fleas but may also infest humans.

Body Shape 

Also, both have different body shapes. Fleas have a reddish brown flat body compared to a louse’s dark grey oval shape. The flea has longer hind legs and can jump higher and faster than the lice. On the other hand, the swine scuttles very fast, like a crab, instead of jumping. The louse has pincers at the end of the legs, similar to crabs, which help them hold tightly to the hair. Hence, lice are harder to find and easily dislodge from hair.

Feeding Habits and Bites

Their feeding manners are different. A flea mainly survives on the host’s blood, whereas the lice can live on blood, dead skin particles, and other things.

Also, flea bites can be identified in series when they feed. The edges generally form a slightly raised, swollen itching area with a single puncture point at the center, similar to a mosquito bite. The bites can be identified in clusters or lines of two edges and remain itchy and inflamed for up to several weeks. On the other hand, lice bites do not leave bite marks. They cause scalp itchiness. Some types of lice may leave red bumps, small in size, on the neck, scalp, and shoulders, which may seem like a rash that crusts and oozes. However, these are rare findings with heavy infestation.

Spread of Disease

Furthermore, lice spend their whole life linked to humans, usually a single human. Lice do not cause any disease. 

Fleas move from one host to another, whether humans or animals. Hence, they are capable of spreading diseases from one host to another. Fleas on rats are credited with laying the bubonic plague. In contrast, lice cannot carry and spread diseases.

Call one of our Online Doctors Now if you Still face Lice Issues even after Using Over-the-Counter Treatment.

FAQs  About Lice Answered By Your Doctors Online Team

Where do lice come from?

Close contact with a person already infested with lice is the most common way to contract head lice. This contact is common during play at home, school, and elsewhere (sports, playground, camps, slumber parties). Sharing of hair accessories can also help spread the lice.

How long can lice live without a host?

Lice feed on blood and need it to survive. Once they crawl away from the human body, they can only survive 1-2 days without blood.

Does tea tree oil kill lice?

This is one of the most known natural treatments, but experts are still trying to find convincing evidence. This product is strong and hence can have dangerous side effects. You should not apply it in pure form to young children, pregnant women or babies. A light spray of moderate tea tree oil on the hair before school can discourage your child’s head lice from choosing his head as their next host.

Does chlorine kill lice?

Chlorine does not kill lice. Children swimming in chlorinated pool water can still have an infestation. Submerging them in chlorinated water can immobilize them, but they regain mobility once removed from it.

How long does it take for lice eggs to hatch?

Nits (eggs) take about one week, which is around 6 to 9 days to hatch.

Does vinegar kill lice?

Vinegar is not considered an effective home remedy to kill lice. It does not prevent them from laying eggs as well. 

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