- Kids Health
Resurgence of head lice in the UK
Haed Louse and combs
Head Lice and I
When I was a child in 1950s Great Britain head lice were not unknown. Back then though, when you were a child at school, such things were treat differently.
A dreaded "nit nurse" regularly visited our school. Her mission in life was to seek out any head lice and thoroughly humiliate the offending children.
Unfortunately once that was me.
Back then such an infestation, however small was dreadful. You were sent home from school and not allowed to return until the lice were well and truly gone. This meant that ordinary families would be devastated and do everything possible to clean their children's heads. Of course those families who did not care would inevitably lead to further infestations.
As a child my own episode of head lice led to my Mum having my hair cut very short and her keeping it that way until I was old enough to have a say in the matter.
Once home my Mum proceeded to rake through my hair with a fine toothed comb which we knowledgeably called a Nit or Dick comb. Dicks was the slang word for head lice whilst nits were these creatures eggs. These eggs although tiny would attach themselves to strands of hair.
My Mum would comb my hair for hours on end until the offending lice or eggs dropped onto the newspaper that I held my head over. She would then squash the beggars with the edge of the comb. Oh the shame of it.
There was an awful product which was applied to the hair and finished the job off. This made your hair look very greasy and it was rather smelly. This meant that everyone knew you were "lousy".
Head Lice do not care who you are.
What are head lice?
"Head lice are human parasites which require human blood to survive. They have been around since the beginning of time, at least a few thousand years.
Head Lice can live on a human being, or host, for approximately 30 days but cannot survive longer than 24 hours off the host. This means that your head lice really need you and they will not vacate your head without a fight.
A female head louse lays up to 3-5 eggs per day. It takes 7-10 days for the eggs to hatch and another 7-10 days for the louse to mature and lay their own eggs"
My next encounter with head lice
Thankfully that was my only infestation with these horrid creatures.
In my late teens I worked at a local Children's Home and some of the children picked up head lice. The children that infected all of the others, had been home for the weekend and brought back more than we wanted. Head's full of lice and nits.
We donned rubber gloves, grabbed the nit cobs and did to them, what my Mum had done to me. We used a product called Suleo, coated their hair and within a few days all was well again. Of course the kids hated having to have the product applied and their hair combed until it was almost pulled out but we were kinder than the nit nurses of old.
Head Lice and Children in the UK today
These days things are very different.
As we all strive to be politically correct, these days, the nit nurses have disappeared. These days teachers are not even allowed to report that a child may have head lice.
Of course all of this has meant that head lice, in the UK, are on the rampage again.
Some of the products that were used years ago to rid a child of head lice either no longer work or are not acceptable these days.
Combing with an appropriate comb is still the best way to fight an infestation. If you then, overly apply hair conditioner to you or your child's hair the lice and nits cannot survive. Slippery hair is not conducive to head lice.
More recent products such as Hedrin are generally classed as safe these days and they do work. The product may have a different name in your country.
You can also try mayonnaise, olive oil, and Vaseline to make your hair greasy and ruin the lice's environment.
Now, I know that like me your head will be itching just reading this, but you do need to be aware of this problem.
With the lack of reporting and control of head lice many children and adults are often affected. This can mean that no matter how clean you are you could be unlucky. Someone who has an infestation only needs to lean over you, perhaps on the bus, and you could have lice before you know it.
Prevention is always better than the cure.
If you have children make sure that you check their hair regularly. If an infestation has just begun nit combing and the like may be enough to solve the problem quickly. Also:-
Avoid head to head contact both at school and at home.
Try not to wash you or your child's hair to often, as head lice love clean hair.
Never share clothing especially hats, scarves, sports uniforms, caps and helmets, coats and hair accessories
Never share combs, brushes or towels
Never lie in beds, on couches or car seats that have recently been in contact with an infested person.
If the worst happens and you, your child or your family get head lice do not panic. It is just one of those things. Remember that usually head lice are a nuisance and not a health hazard.
The Internet will be a valuable resource in learning how to treat heads full of head lice and making sure that a re-infestation does not occur.
Good Luck then, as I must go and wash my itchy head.