Friday, August 29, 2008

Head Lice Demystified

It's a rite of passage I never had to pass through. However, during my trip home, I had the opportunity to learn a little bit about head lice; and you know what they say: scientia potentia. Now I know just how bad - and not bad - they really are. But no worries. I'm not planning to keep all this information to myself.

In case you too never had them, here are a few facts about them:

  • Lice are parasites: they feed on human blood.

  • Take away the blood source for somewhere between 24-55 hours (sources differ), and the lice will die.

  • Heat will also kill the buggers. They cannot live above 140 degrees, so a hot blow dryer to the head (not always tolerable to children) or a hot dryer (not always tolerable to dolls) will kill them.

  • Lice cannot jump or fly. Thus, you must get close enough to an affected person or their items in order for them to crawl onto you.

  • Head lice carry no diseases. Unlike ROACHES! But I'll save that for my post about roaches (a pest that does NOT get more tolerable with information).

  • Lice are not particularly drawn to dirty heads - and cannot be dislodged by shampooing the hair.

  • The itching associated with head lice is from an allergic reaction to the bug's saliva and feces.(See now, don't you feel better?)

  • The eggs (nits) must be incubated close to the head to hatch.

  • The modern louse is becoming resistant to chemical shampoos designed to kill them (which is actually good news, given how bad the chemicals in them are). Thus, your best bet at removing them is to go back to the old fashioned method of "mechanical removal." To translate: oh, never mind. You probably get the picture.

  • Also, anointing one's head with oil may help suffocate the live ones. (Sorry, PETA. But I read your thoughts on roaches.)

  • And lastly, while everyone is sitting around scratching their heads, some cultural items of note:

  • Lice were found on the heads of Egyptian mummies.

  • We have lice to thank for the coined phrases 'nit pick' and 'going over something with a fine-toothed comb.' (This one is courtesy of my husband: I knew this, but he didn't make the connection until last week.)

  • Of course, even knowing all this, I'm not saying "Bring them on!" I really dislike bugs and knowing there were some crawling around on my head would keep me from sleeping at night, resulting in other problems. But given the option of lice, bedbugs, or fleas, I'll take lice first, fleas second, and bedbugs third. Just please don't make roaches an option.


    Aly sun said...

    interesting. I always thought that they could jump from someone's head. I learned a lot, but am curious how you came to know so much about them. :)

    Melanie said...

    Alysun - that one surprised me too, as well them being parasites. One other fact I forgot - you can SEE them. The little ones are the size of sesame seeds and the more mature ones are up to 1/4 inch long. Take a look at a ruler - that's pretty big! Thus, there's no chance you might have them and not know it, which, envisioning teachers peering closely at kids' heads, I've always feared.

    Melanie said...

    (P.S. Regarding the impetus to learn about them - someone we visited with while we were in town found out their child had them.)

    Sarah said...

    Not just my head, now I'm scratching my arms and legs, thanks a lot.

    Trespasser said...

    Helpful information indeed. The tenor of your post indicated that you hadn't suffered from a lousal infestation, so I'm wondering why you have such knowledge. I'm glad to find this site, it'll be great keeping up with you two even in a most informal manner.