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How to Remove Head Lice Permanently

How to Remove Head Lice Permanently

Head lice, or kuto in the Philippines, are very common in children and people who work in childcare. While there are many ways to remove head lice permanently, it is best if parents know how to prevent their child from getting them in the first place. Here’s everything you need to know about these pesky critters.

What are head lice?

Head lice are tiny parasitic insects that infest and feed on blood from the scalp of their host. This infestation is common in children, especially those who are attending school. Female head lice lay eggs or nits (lisa) close to the scalp, where it is warm enough for the eggs to mature. These eggs or nits often look like dandruff since they can appear white or yellowish.

Head lice will continue to spread, regardless of the host’s personal hygiene, and they do not cause any serious health problems. However, a study has found a link between chronic heavy lice infestation and severe iron deficiency anemia. In the cases present in the study, the common causes of anemia (like heavy menstrual bleeding and pregnancy) were ruled out.

Signs and symptoms

The common signs and symptoms of a head lice infestation are:

Constant scratching or itching. The most common sign that someone might have a lice infestation is severe itching. This is caused by an allergic reaction to the bite of a head louse. If it’s your child’s first time to have head lice, symptoms might show up after 4 to 6 weeks of infestation. Your kid will constantly scratch his or her head, neck, nape, and ears.

The sensation of crawling or movement on the scalp. Children have head lice often they complain about something crawling on their scalps or in their hair. Head lice constantly move around to find new spots from where they can suck blood.

Sores or red bumps on the head, neck, nape, and ear. Persistent scratching can lead to sores and red bumps in the areas where head lice feed. An infection can occur if the sores and the head lice infestation are left untreated.

Difficulty sleeping. Head lice look for feeding spots and areas where they can lay their eggs at night. If your child has been finding it difficult to fall asleep, then he or she may have head lice.

Lice on the scalp and lice nits on the hair shaft. Lice may be difficult to spot at first because of their size. However, if the lice infestation grows, it will be easier for you to see the insects on your child’s scalp and hair strands. Lice eggs, on the other hand, are found at the base of the hair shaft just above the scalp. At the beginning, they can blend in with the color of your child’s hair but will lighten in color as they hatch.

The Preschool Years: Common Health Problems

Causes

The life cycle of a louse is divided into three parts:

Stage 1. Eggs or nits take 6 to 9 days to hatch.

Stage 2. Baby lice or nymphs are born. They grow into adults after 9 to 12 days.

Stage 3. Adult lice can live for about a month on a person’s head. A louse typically dies in 24 to 48 hours after it falls from a person’s scalp. Generally, female lice are larger than male lice and can lay 6 eggs a day.

Head lice can move from person to person through close contact with lice-infested hair. Children often catch them since they are around other kids in school. Similarly, it can spread at home when family members share haircare and head-related items:

  • Hairbrushes or combs
  • Hair accessories such as scrunchies and headbands
  • Hats and other items that cover the head
  • Headphones
  • Pillowcases, towels, and other personal items that touch the hair

Treatment

There are several ways to remove head lice permanently, including:

The comb method

how to remove head lice permanently

In the Philippines, a fine-toothed comb or suyod is commonly used to get rid of lice. Here’s how you do it:

  • Find a well-lit area where you and your child can comfortably do the extraction.
  • Wet your child’s hair and divide it into small sections.
  • Starting with one section, run the fine-toothed comb from the scalp down to the ends of the hair.
  • Gently flick or tap the comb on a white towel or cloth to get rid of the lice, nymphs, and nits.
  • Repeat this process for all the other sections.

The comb method is more effective when combined with other treatments.

Medicine

One of the best ways to remove head lice permanently is to use medications. They can come in the form of medicated shampoos, lotions, and creams, as well as over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicine. The type of medicine you need will depend on the severity of the infestation and the age of your child. If the infestation is causing your child discomfort, consult your pediatrician for a prescription.

Be sure to read the instructions carefully before administering medicine to your child. Too much or too little product can have a negative effect.

Prevention

Here are the things you can do to ensure that your child and the whole household are free from head lice:

  • Wash your child’s personal items like clothes, towels, bedsheets, pillowcases, blanket, and hair accessories.
  • Put dry-clean-only items in a bag and keep it sealed for two weeks to kill any remaining lice.
  • Vacuum all upholstered furniture.
  • Check everyone in the house for lice.

Key Takeaways

Head lice are a common scalp problem in children. However, if left untreated, a lice infestation may worsen and spread to other people. Thus, parents should address the infestation right away so that their children can enjoy their time in school and at home. Aside from lice, there are other infestations your child may be carrying to watch out for such as worms.

Learn more about Other Child Health Issues, here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Severe Iron Deficiency Anemia Associated with Heavy Lice Infestation in a Young Woman  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4654199/ Accessed October 8, 2020

Head Lice https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/head-lice.html Accessed October 8, 2020

Head Lice: What Parents Need to Know https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/from-insects-animals/Pages/Signs-of-Lice.aspx Accessed October 8, 2020

Head Lice https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/head-lice/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356186 Accessed October 8, 2020

What are Head Lice? https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/gen_info/faqs.html Accessed October 8, 2020

Head Lice in Children https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=lice-90-P01908 Accessed October 8, 2020

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Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao Updated Jun 04
Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS