Hair lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are tiny, parasitic, wingless insects that live in the hair of the head and feed on the blood from the scalp. They are a common problem amongst young school going kids as it is highly contagious. Lice and their eggs called nits are easy enough to spot through observing one’s hair especially near the neck or the back of ears.
The lice can easily spread from close head to head contact, as seen with kids. It could also be spread by using personal hair grooming products like comb, hair clips, headbands etc. Also the exchange and usage of towels, clothing or bedding from a person with lice could start the infestation.
The symptoms often include
- Severe itching of the scalp
- A feeling of something crawling in the head
- Sores on the scalp from incessant scratching.
Though often confused with dandruff, head lice are easily discernible as they are firmly attached to the hair and are not as easily removed through brushing or even rubbing the scalp.
Hair lice can be diagnosed by inspecting the hair close to the scalp for lice or nits. In case of any ambiguity the nits can be inspected under a microscope.
The infestation of lice may be treated with regular over the counter medicines or prescription medications. Extracts of chrysanthemums are known to kill lice, so the medicine pyrethrin is effective. A synthetic drug Permethrin is the alternative. Applying olive oil to the hair and combing with a fine toothed comb allows the lice and nits to stick to the comb.