By Brett Milam
Feel itchy yet?
As it happens, head lice infestations occur most often in the month of January and tend to be most common among preschool and elementary school-aged children, according to the Lice Clinics of America, the largest network of urgent care lice treatment clinics in the country.
Offices in Ohio part of that network are in Loveland, Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and Dublin.
Dr. Krista Lauer, Lice Clinics of America’s medical director, first explained what head lice is: parasites that live their entire lives exclusively on the human head, she said.
“They have specially adapted claws that grasp a human hair and allow them to crawl along it,” Lauer said. “A head lice infestation is purely a result of opportunity. Lice can transfer from one head to another when there is direct head to head contact with an infested person.”
As for why head lice is more common among younger children, Lauer said it’s because of the nature of their interactions.
“They tend to play in close proximity and may share pillows for naps,” she said. “Recently there appears to be an increase in infestations in older children, adolescents and young adults.
Lauer added a theory, “This is probably related to technology with people gathering in close proximity around video games, computer screens, and taking selfies with heads pressed together.”
And once the infestation is in the house, Lauer said it is “highly likely” that a parent, caregiver or other sibling will also become infected.
January is particularly prone to head lice infestations because, Lauer said, because of the holidays, “when families often travel and may share beds or be in closer proximity.”
Lauer also highlighted September as a bad month for the “dreaded head lice letters” because of the start of the school year.
“Increased awareness at these times makes it seem as though infestations are more prevalent in those months,” she said. “The truth is, head lice infestations happen throughout the entire year. According to the CDC, there are between 6-12 million new cases of head lice in the US every year.”
Lauer also addressed myths about head lice, one is simply how a person becomes inested to begin with.
“The vast majority of head lice infestations occur from direct head to head contact. It is extremely unlikely to get head lice from an inanimate object, such as a brush or comb,” she said. “It would be highly improbable that a person could become infested from an airplane seat, or an article of clothing.
Lauer added, “Lice do not jump, hop, fly or swim and they cannot survive for long periods of time off the human scalp.”
Another misconception is that people who get head lice do not have good hygiene, or are of lower socioeconomic status, Lauer said.
“This is simply not true. Head lice are not an indication of poor hygiene,” she said. “In fact, some suggest they may prefer clean hair, finding it easier to maneuver. As we like to say, lice are equal opportunity infesters.”
One other misconception or myth, Lauer said, is that pets do not get infested by lice.
“They are specifically adapted to live only on the human head,” she said.
The first step to treating head lice is similar to the treatment of many other problems: being aware of the possibility or problem in the first place.
“Parents or caregivers should be doing regular, weekly head checks on children,” Lauer said. “This way, an infestation can be identified and managed quickly. Should you see lice or their eggs (nits), treat.”
Lauer added, “Unfortunately, over the past several years, lice have evolved, and they have developed resistance to the chemical insecticides in the popular over-the-counter head lice treatments.
Much like the superbug problem with antibiotics, Lauer said this form of lice has been dubbed “super lice” to describe these pesticide-resistant lice.”
“Lice Clinics of America is a science based company that uses an FDA-cleared Class I medical device, the AirAllé device,” she said. “This device is used by certified technicians in Lice Clinics of America clinics across the country and around the world.”
The way the AirAllé device works is that it dehydrates live lice and their eggs. In combination with use of a non-toxic liquid gel, it manages the infestation and guaranteed for 30 days, Lauer said.
“It is a true one and done solution to a head lice infestation,” she said. “For those who cannot get to a clinic for professional treatment, look for dimethicone containing over-the-counter treatments. These are effective at killing live lice, but not their eggs, so two treatments are required.”
Lauer added, “While there are other dimethicone containing treatments available, we believe the Lice Remover Kit by Lice Clinics of America is the best. It contains dimethicone in a unique liquid-gel formula that is less drippy.
She added, “It comes with a special dispenser for easy application of the proper amount of product and it washes out easily with regular shampoo.”
Any treatment one chooses, however, requires combing with a proper lice comb to remove the dead lice and eggs, Lauer said, but combing by itself as a treatment is less effective since eggs could be missed, starting the cycle of infestation again.
Head lice is considered a “medical nuisance,” Lauer said, meaning they do not carrying diseases and do not cause any long-term medical illnesses or serious health problems.
However, if left untreated, people will experience severe itchiness in the scalp, Lauer said.
“This can lead to loss of sleep and can have an effect on overall sense of health and wellbeing and on productivity and the ability to concentrate,” she said. “It is possible that a person could develop an infection in open wounds caused by scratching, but this is not common.”
If someone is worried about getting exposed to head lice or even reinestation, Lice Clinics of America has a Lice Preventer Kit.
“The non-toxic product is applied to the scalp weekly and then removed with regular shampoo,” Lauer said. “This disrupts the reproductive cycle of head lice and prevents an infestation.”
For more information about head lice and to find a local clinic, visit their web site at: https://www.liceclinicsofamerica.com/.