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General Description

Lice are bloodsucking insects that commonly infest the scalp, body, and genital areas. Their bite causes severe itching.

The scalp louse lays some three hundred eggs, each cemented to a hair shaft. Newborn lice must feed within twenty-four hours, or they will perish. Head lice usually affect children and are readily transferred among classmates. Infestation triggers intense itching and scratching, which leads to open sores. Close examination reveals tiny white specks (nits) glued to the hair shaft.

Body lice may be transmitted by close contact or by wearing infested garments. The adult louse feeds on the skin, but lives within the seams of clothing. Most cases are associated with dirty, unsanitary living conditions.

Crab lice affect the hairy genital regions. They are spread by sexual contact and infest over one million Americans on a yearly basis. Thirty percent of infested persons will have another concurrent sexually transmitted disease. Crab lice result in ferocious itching of the genitals, which is especially severe at night. On close examination, the tiny louse may be seen as a brownish speck at the base of a pubic hair. Their eggs, or nits, are visible as small dots affixed to the hairs.

Causes

Lice are parasitic insects.

Medical Treatments

Lice are eliminated with medicated creams, lotions, or shampoos, although resistant cases have been reported. Resistance is an emerging problem with head lice. First-line therapy for head lice includes over-the-counter shampoos such as Rid or Nix. As the nits hatch in several days, repeat treatment some ten days later is recommended. Removal of nits is often impractical and not necessary but can be accomplished using special louse combs. Children with lice or their eggs do not need to be sent home from school.

Remedies

Tips

Look for nits in natural light as they are easier to see.

Folk

Olive oil Saturate the hair with the oil; cover with a shower cap and leave on for eight hours or overnight. If the treatment needs to be repeated, repeat on the following days: 1, 5, 9, 13, 17 and 21. These days coinside with the life-cycle of the nits.

Petroleum jelly Rub the head thoroughly with petroleum jelly and wrap it in plastic wrap, bathing cap or other method; leave on overnight and wash out in the morning. This method is very effective but messy.

Tree resin Cover the hair and scalp with tree resin oil; wrap head in a towel, bathing cap or plastic wrap and leave on overnight; rinse out in the morning. Easier cleanup than petroleum jelly.

Vinegar At bedtime wet the head with vinegar and wrap it in a vinegar-soaked towel; cover this towel with a dry towel and leave on overnight. The eggs detach and will come out during shampooing.

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