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A great discomfort for children, a small nightmare for parents.

head lice

Remove lice from your children’s heads

Here we focus on lice, the parasitic insects that create their nest in the heads of unsuspected children and jump from one to another. The danger lurks all year round, since lice can spread in any “community” of small children, such as playgrounds, kindergartens, parks, schools and camps.

Pediculosis – the scientific term for head lice – is a problem that all experience as a nightmare, although it is not a health hazard. There is certainly no doubt that it is a really annoying condition, since it causes intense, often irresistible itching, while several times minor injuries may even develop due to scratching, and intensive treatment may be required to combat and prevent recurrence, especially if there is a predisposition.

The favourite victims of these small parasites are children between the ages of 3 and 12 years old, mainly due to their habit to play in groups and exchange hats, clothes, towels and other personal belongings. You should also be aware that lice won’t leave on their own from the head, since this is the place where food, warmth and humidity are present. The insect is being fed every 3-6 hours from the head’s blood, similar to mosquitoes, which is why the child feels this intense itching. It should also be noted that lice on scalp cannot affect any other part of the body.

How you can recognise them

Checking the head, mainly the areas behind the ears and at the back of the neck is necessary in order to identify on a timely manner the nits. These are actually the eggs that female lice leave on the hair roots. Their colour is white or brown and their size is smaller than the pin head. As compared to dandruff, with which lice may be confused, they are tightly anchored onto hair due to a very sticky substance they have.

After about 7-10 days, nits become nymphs and then – after another 10 days – adult lice. The length of lice is 2-4 mm and its ends look like hooks, which enable them to be firmly attached on the hair.

How you can get rid of them

After the careful examination of your child’s head, follow treatment immediately, which may seem a bit aggressive but it has many chances to achieve excellent results. You can seek advice from your dermatologist and then buy the special drugs available in the form of shampoo, gel or powder, and act on the nerve cells of lice, leading to paralysis and eventually death. The most effective active ingredients are natural pyrethrins and synthetic derivatives, such as permethrin and malathion.

For gel and powder to be used, it is essential to rub the scalp once applied and if possible the product should remain on the scalp for another ten minutes so that to be more effective. Then you can remove it with a special shampoo. The process should be repeated 2-3 times with a 7-10-day period between each application.

At this point, you use a special comb with very narrow teeth to remove eggs and lice that have been killed by the special product, but remain hooked up to your hair. Of course, it’s easier and quicker to finish this process in short hair, but that does not mean that long hair attract lice to a greater extent.

Once you are sure that all eggs and dead lice have been removed, you should shampoo the hair again with normal shampoo. You should always keep in mind that clean hair does not protect them from new lice to develop since lice are not related to cleanliness of hair. To avoid this, shampoo the hair with the special product for the next 4-6 weeks after the end of the treatment regimen.

Nature can give the solution

Before start using a pharmaceutical product, you can try some natural treatments that may solve the problem easily and quickly. Grandmothers know very well that vinegar is the most effective “weapon” for a clean head. So washing your hair often with diluted vinegar (dilute half a litre of vinegar in half a litre of water). Essential oil of thyme or lavender is another effective solution: dilute 2-3 teaspoons of essential oil of thyme or lavender in 140 ml olive oil and apply on your scalp and hair. Allow all night so that it is absorbed and wash out with normal shampoo on the next morning.

In the market you can also find specialised natural-composition shampoos and lotions with citronella, eucalyptus and geranium, known for their antiparasitic activity. Tea tree oil and neem oil are also effective in removing the lice, preventing the deposition of eggs and soothing itching. Recurrence of the problem can also be prevented through the use of shampoos containing apple cider vinegar and extracts of rosemary, sage, thyme and lavender. Another category of herbal products against lice are some sprays that contain silicone oil molecules, which block lice’s airways leading to suffocation.

Stop the transmission

To avoid the transmission of hair lice to the other family members and also make them disappear for good from your home it is essential to wash all your linens, bath towels, clothes and teddy bears with which the child has come in contact with a temperature of at least 60 degrees Celsius. Furthermore soak all combs, brushes and tweezers in hot water with cleaning agent for about an hour. Check thoroughly the heads of all family members and, if necessary, follow the anti-lice treatment.

About the author:

Christofer Tzermias

Specialised in the UK (Oxford & London) and in North America (New York & San Diego) in the field of LASER Dermatology, Dr Tzermias, has been providing dermatological state-of-the-art treatments using cutting-edge LASER and Energy based Devices for over 20 years. He has been Director of Interventional and LASER Dermatology Department at the Athens Medical Center for over 18 years and for the last 9 years is the Scientific Director of IQ - Intensive Quality Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Clinics, which at the 2017 Healthcare Awards won the ‘Innovation Award for Innovative Services’ for their pioneering contributions. Since 2018, IQ Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Clinics has also been operating in London, UK and in Muscat, Oman. Dr Tzermias is a Fellow of the world-renowned American Society for LASER Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS), a Founder Member of the European Society LASER Dermatology (ESLD), the Vice President of the ‘Open Health Alliance’ and he is also on the Board of Directors of Elitour - Greek Medical Tourism Council.

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