Today’s topic is head lice. While not exactly a viral disease, head lice is a nasty ailment that is very common during the elementary school years. According to the Directors of Health Promotion and Education, six to twelve million people have to deal with head lice each year (“Head Lice” par, 10).
The scientific name of head lice is Pediculus humanus capitis. The lice themselves are bugs that go through three stages of growth: nits, nymphs, and adults. The nits are lice eggs that take one week to hatch. They have an oval shape with yellow-white coloring and are often mistaken for dandruff. Nits are firmly attached to the hair shaft. It is easy to realize these are not dandruff when you cannot brush them out. The nymph is an immature adult louse (common name for a wingless insect). It takes seven days for a nymph to become an adult. Adults are about the size of sesame seeds with six legs and a tan-grey color. Adult lice can live on the scalp for thirty days (“Head Lice” par, 2).
Lice need blood to survive. They do not jump or fly, but are spread by direct contact to infected individuals. Due to the social nature of girls and their longer hair length, they and women are more likely to get head lice than boys or men (“Head Lice” par, 7).
Treatment of head lice involves topical medicine that is applied directly to the hair to kill the bugs. There are also lice-killing shampoos if topical medicine is not necessary. Lice can live in clothes so to rid the house of bugs one must wash all clothes worn by the infected person and vacuum carpets and cloth furniture. It is also a good idea to soak brushes and combs in alcohol to kill any remaining insects (“Head Lice” par, 9).
Recent studies have been done to determine if head lice are becoming resistant to current treatments. A study done in the British Journal of Dermatology found that, “The high survival rate of head lice on treated individuals suggests resistance to the local treatments used (permethrin in Bristol and malathion in Bath)” (Downs 509). This is a more and more important question about what the next step in lice treatment should be as natural resistance to certain pesticides is becoming common.
Many health websites stress the fact that contracting lice is no reflection on socioeconomic status or personal hygiene. To prove that point it is good to note that recently the British Prime Minister’s children came home with the pesky affliction, as reported by The Times of India (“10 Downing Street bugged?” par, 1). It is just as easy for the private school children of very important world politician to get head lice as it is for a poorer public school child. All kids hug and play and share things that can pass the ailment around. Are you itching yet? I know I am!
(He may be giving a thumbs-up now but I’m sure he wasn’t too please when his kids came home with lice http://www.emnnews.com/featured/david-cameron43-becomes-britains-youngest-prime-minister-in-almost-200-years/)