Not sure what you’re looking for? Don’t worry.
It’s your first time dealing with lice and you’re not sure what you’re looking for. Don’t worry. If you’ve never dealt with head lice before, it’s hard to spot an infestation. Fifty per cent of individuals who have an active case of lice can sometimes go weeks without any symptoms.
To help rule out any misconceptions, help you identify an infestation, and ensure you know your options for treatment, here are the facts you need to know:
Lice do not jump or fly
Since lice do not jump or fly, this means they are spread almost exclusively through direct head-to-head contact. Lice and their eggs cannot survive off a human head for more than 48 hours, so the chance of being infested from a seat, such as on a plane or in the movie theatre is low. Head lice have evolved to live strictly on human heads, meaning you won’t find them on your pets or stuffed animals, either.
That being said, if your child does have an active lice infestation, its best to set aside any stuffed animals they may have cuddled or slept with for 48 hours.
Does hygiene make a difference?
No. Lice are not bias—they don’t care if your hair is clean or dirty. Hygiene has nothing to do with the likelihood of becoming infested. It’s no surprise that children tend to be the ones who have an infestation first, however, any adult who makes head-to-head contact with an infested individual can get lice as well.
Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to shampoo away a lice infestation—lice can hold their breath for several hours, and nits are glued to the hair shaft by an extremely strong glue that shampoos can’t remove.
What to look for
You may be wondering what to look for to determine whether there is an active case of lice. Lice are small and move quickly, making them tough to spot. Eggs and nits have a teardrop shape and are usually a tan or grey colour. As mentioned previously, the eggs and nits are glued to the hair shaft, which means they will not fall or flake off. If you can flick or blow the “egg” or “nit” off the hair, it’s not lice.
If you have found nits or eggs in an infested individual’s hair but no live bugs, it is still possible for the infestation to be active. Be sure to check the “hot spots” of the scalp, where lice and nits are most-commonly found. These areas include the nape of the neck, crown of the head, and behind the ears.
Adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed and are typically dark brown in colour. If you find nits in the hair that are farther away than half an inch from the scalp, it’s likely just a shell that was left behind from when the louse hatched.
Combing the hair
Combing and finding nits or bugs—not just feeling itchy—is the only way to confirm a lice infestation. An itchy scalp can mean several things, and therefore is not a guarantee that an individual has lice. What someone swears is a case of head lice can simply be bad dandruff/dry scalp. This is why combing the hair—using a metal terminator comb—and finding nits or live bugs on the head, is the only way to know for sure if it’s a case of head lice.
During a combing session, you can fan the teeth of the comb out over a cup of water or piece of paper towel after each swipe through the hair. If using water, after dipping the comb, the nits will float; if you removed dandruff flakes, they would sink.
What’s the best treatment for a headlice infestation?
Over-the-counter lice treatments are sometimes effective at killing bugs but will never kill the eggs. Often, we see many families that have used an OTC treatment and still come to us with an active case of lice.
Our Health Canada-approved heated air treatment is effective at killing both bugs and their eggs. form of lice treatment. Treatment using the AirAlle device typically takes about 90 minutes, and you leave our clinic lice free, with no follow-up combing required (depending on the level if infestation).