Many times, during the consultations, mothers ask me if there are any homeopathic medicines for nits. I have to explain to them that nits are not a disease. It is a parasite infestation. These need to be removed manually. In the ancient times, when people stayed in joint families, the work was distributed and there was no social media or TV distraction; females utilized their afternoons chitchatting and checking the hair of their kids or other females in the household checking for lice and nits.
Nowadays, lice infestation could be treated with anti-lice medications. But, the nits remain. These nits would mature and release baby louse, and the infestation continues. Having nits indicate that you had or are having active lice in your scalp. White nits are empty eggs that suggest an old infestation, whereas the dark-colored nits are the eggs that will hatch to release baby lice in the coming days.
Why Do People Hate Lice So Much?
- Head lice are tiny insects that infest the scalp. They feed on human blood to survive. So, while a louse is enjoying its stay in our hair, taking a walk on the scalp, and feasting on our blood, it creates an annoying sensation of itchiness in the scalp.
- Head lice reproduce very fast.
- Moreover, having lice infestation is considered a sign of bad hygiene, although, in reality, it is not.
These are the reasons people, particularly why the mothers, despise the lice so much.
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How Does a Person Get Head Lice Infestation?
Head lice do not have wings. So, they spread from an infested person by:
- Contact, such as in school, while playing, and sitting in close contact with the infested person.
- By sharing combs, clothes, towels, pillows, beds, scarves, caps, and chairs with headrest with the infested person. This can happen at home, salons, camps, school picnics, green rooms, daycare centers, etc.
- Girls and women are more likely to get infected with the head lice. Also, it is most commonly observed in the preschool and the school-going kids.
What Happens When We Get a Lice Infestation?
The lice, when reaches a healthy scalp, lay eggs. The most favorite spots to lay eggs are behind the ears and above the nape of the neck. These eggs of the head lice are called nits and are attached to the hair with a glue-like substance.
The nits hatch baby lice. They are called nymphs. They grow into adult lice in about a week after hatching.
An adult-lice can live on the scalp for a month and lays about 7-10 eggs in a day. When these eggs mature, they hatch and a nymph comes out. And, the cycle continues.
As mentioned earlier, the lice feed on our blood to survive. So, does a nymph. When they are sucking blood, they release saliva into the scalp which creates an allergic reaction causing the desire to scratch the part. Also, they cause a crawling sensation in the scalp which causes an impulse to scratch the scalp. Sometimes, this scratching could cause wounds that may get infected.
Head lice do not cause any diseases. However, in cases of severe lice infestations, particularly in children, old people, and the ones with poor immunity, there could be rashes on the scalp called dermatitis. It could also cause swelling of lymph nodes around the scalp.
How Do I Know If I or My Child Has Got Head Lice?
- You may experience a crawling sensation and itchiness in the scalp.
- You may be able to find a louse or lice nits in the scalp on examining the scalp closely.
- You won’t be able to check your hair. In that case, it is advised that you wet comb your hair with lice comb. You will be able to find a louse stuck in the comb.
How to Get Rid of Head Lice and Nits?
There are various over the counter shampoos and home remedies to get rid of lice and nits. However, just using the shampoos won’t drive the lice away. You will have to identify the origin of infestation and treat so that the chances of re-infestation are reduced. Follow these steps if you are looking for complete freedom from lice and nit’s infestation.
- Identify the source of infestation: If you or your kids are getting infested by the lice, try to identify the source of the infestation. Doing so, it will help to prevent the re-infestation after the anti-lice treatment. For instance, one patient noted that she develops a lice infestation each time she has a saloon trip. She was able to identify the source of the infestation. Then, she spoke to the saloon person about the hygiene practices to follow and carried her own set of combs for the haircut the next time she visited the saloon.
- Teach your child to follow precautions. If you identify the source of infestation as school, you could ask your child not to sit very close to friends. At home, avoid sharing combs, towels, clothes, pillows, and bed. Wash the pillow covers, towels, and combs every day.
- Once you know that one of the family members has an infestation, check for infestation with other family members too as it is likely that the lice may spread easily to the other family members.
- Use the anti-lice shampoo according to its directions. Some shampoos need application once a week for 6 weeks. There are other prescribed shampoos which are one-time application and not only suffocate the lice but also the nits.
- After the head bath, comb the wet hair using lice and nits comb to remove these dead parasites.
- The other home remedies used for killing lice are applying a generous amount of olive oil. This smothers the lice and kills them.
- You could also use a mixture of coconut oil, tea tree oil, and lavender oil to kill the lice.
- Petroleum jelly can be used. It is easy to apply, but it is extremely difficult to remove it completely from your hair.
- Nits remain attached to the hair even after they are dead. To remove them, you may mix a cup of warm water and apple cider vinegar. Dampen your hair and apply this mixture on the hair. Wrap them in a shower cap and comb the hair with a nits’ comb after 15 minutes. The acetic acid in the apple cider vinegar helps to loosen up the nits’ glue.
Hope these tips help you get over your lice and nits’ infestation. However, it is important to note that if you are using home remedies to kill the lice, this will take several regular applications because the home remedies are not that strong as the medications. You might need to keep repeating these applications for 6 weeks so that all the infestation is cleared.
- Written by Dr. Yafta S., Associate doctor to Dr. Rajesh Shah