Illnesses Kids

Evicting Lice

Lousey louseOne would think that with all the advances and developments that have been made in the world – somebody would have come up with a safe and effective way to eradicate lice! Parents with toddlers at a crèche and those with kids at primary schools are ready to pull their own hair out when they discover the tiny grey nasty parasites crawling on their child’s scalp.

Lice have been around since the dawn of time and even though there is no shortage of chemical products which all guarantee an end to lice, (not to mention a number of very strange home remedies) moms are still fighting a losing battle against these hardy and seemingly immortal pests.


Harmless but annoying

Thankfully, lice are fairly harmless pests and they do not spread any disease or germs but they are very infectious and if one child is infected with lice, within a few weeks, an entire classroom will be scratching their heads. They may not be harmful but they are very annoying and they have been the bane of mothers for years!

Since a louse needs human blood to survive, they spend their day snacking on human blood (sucking up your child’s blood). Like a mosquito, a louse injects a chemical into the skin to get the blood flowing and this causes an itch and with a lice infestation, kids are continually seen scratching their itchy heads. The itchiness is aggravated by perspiration, so if the child is active, it won’t be long before they reach up to scratch their head.

As if an itchy scalp is not enough, when a lice infestation is at its worst, the child will complain of a tickling sensation on their scalp and this is caused by the dozens of lice which have now set up permanent residence on your child’s scalp. To make matters worse, once a single louse has been detected on the head, parents will notice a large number (often hundreds) of small white balls, similar to dandruff, present on the hair shafts. These are lice eggs, or nits, and are literally cemented onto hair strands! The white nits are eggs which have hatched, while the tan or light brown dots are un-hatched eggs. It takes about a week or two for the eggs to hatch. A female head louse will lay about four eggs in a day and at least 88 eggs during her lifetime. A child with a lice infestation will have at least 15 to 20 lice crawling on their heads.

With a child continually scratching their head, the excessive scratching may possibly lead to a bacterial infection on the scalp and this will need to be treated.


Getting rid of lice – not an easy task

A lice infestation has been confirmed and parents rush off to the nearest pharmacy and arm themselves with every known lice shampoo on the market, such as Gambex. Gambex is a highly toxic lice-beating shampoo. It may seem to be an easy way to destroy lice but in 2008, it was discovered that this highly toxic shampoo contains an active ingredient (lindane) which causes anaemia in children. Before buying any over-the-counter lice shampoos, parents are urged to conduct research into all the active ingredients and find out exactly what side effects these anti-lice shampoos have.

Apart from the potential health dangers caused by these toxic lice products, lice (being tenacious bugs to begin with) are building up immunity to these chemicals. Research that has been conducted on children who have been treated with toxic pesticides used to eliminate lice infestations, has shown the products to be responsible for the onset of long-term side effects, including asthma. The short-term effects caused by these lice elimination shampoos include allergies, coughing fits and even blistering of the scalp.

In desperation, parents are using these shampoos on a daily basis and because the toxins seep into the bloodstream, these harsh chemicals may cause damage to the child’s organs.

Experts are now issuing warnings that these over-the-counter shampoos should be used in moderation, and they are also advising that parents use non-toxic or natural alternatives to treat the lice epidemic.  The lice epidemic is not only affecting South African kids but is in fact a global problem!


Natural and safe methods to eliminate lice

When using natural alternatives to fight the lice epidemic, parents must remember that lice are determined and downright tough and they will not give up without a fight. To get rid of lice, parents will need to prepare themselves for a long and tedious battle.

  • The moment a louse is exposed, parents must notify their child’s school. The school is required to issue a lice warning and advise other parents to be vigilant and inspect their child’s hair.
  • Tea tree oil has proven to be a good natural remedy for lice but when buying the oil, ensure that only pure oil is bought and the oil should not contain any additives. If the outbreak has reached the epidemic stage, the tea-tree oil can be mixed with a small quantity of olive oil and the solution can be rubbed directly onto the scalp. Using a plastic shower cap or a stocking, wrap the child’s head and leave for thirty minutes. Rinse and wash with conditioner. This lice beating ritual can be repeated daily or thrice weekly (if necessary).
  • Add tea tree to the family’s shampoo and wash hair regularly (at least every second day). It is important to treat the whole family for lice.
  • Since a louse can live without their human host for two days, strip all beds and wash in hot water.
  • Soak hairbrushes, and hair accessories, like headbands, Alice bands and scrunches in a strong Dettol and tea tree solution.
  • Vacuum carpets daily.
  • There are electronic combs sold that help remove the cemented nits. Hair must be combed daily and nits that are not removed must be gently pulled off the hair strands.
  • Discourage kids against sharing hats and hair accessories.

Other effective natural remedies for the eradication of lice include coconut and tea tree oil (mixed as a paste and applied to the head) as well as a mixture of other essential oils like eucalyptus oil, lavender and peppermint.

It may take months before lice are completely eliminated and parents will need to be committed to the cause (daily combing and regular hair washing using natural and non harmful remedies).

Never use toxic pesticides such as Doom on a child!


Lice myths

  • Pets do not carry lice and will not contribute to the spread of lice.
  • Lice do not only like clean hair and these tenacious pests will be happy to live in any type of human hair.
  • Lice do not jump or fly from head to head and are spread through close (head to head) contact, on headgear such as hats, and will latch onto brushes and combs. Lice can remain undetected on pillows and towels and will quickly latch onto the head of an unsuspecting victim.
 – Kathy Baron

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