When fighting lice, focus on kids’ heads, not hats or toys

Science News | 6/13/2019 | Staff
oxboy (Posted by) Level 4
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I recently attempted a technically demanding “around the world” braid on my kindergartner. On my sloppy and meandering approach to the South Pole, I discovered a loathsome sight that scuttled my circumnavigation — a smattering of small, brownish casings stuck onto hairs.

I tried to convince myself that I was looking at sand. She’s always covered in sand! But I’ve spent enough time around insects to know that I was looking at something biological. Bad braid abandoned, I began combing through, looking for more specks. And I sure found them: Lice eggs, or nits, that were glued onto the hair next to the scalp, and precisely one live bug.

Today - Outbreak - Children - Situation - Lice

Today, I am delighted to report that our outbreak is over. (Although with three young children, our situation will probably swing between “having lice” and “waiting to have lice again.”) Our first brush with the little buggers sent me into full research mode, and I’m now armed with a deeper understanding of lice habits and preferences. In the interest of streamlining your next lice experience, I offer below some little-known and helpful facets of lice life.

The best way to spot lice and their tiny nits is with wet combing.

Scalp - Metal - Comb - Hair - Conditioner

Compared with spot-checking the scalp, pulling a fine-toothed metal comb through hair that’s slick with conditioner turns out more critters.

Pepper-sized nits can range from white to brown in color and are glued to single hairs. These suckers are on tight: You might need a fingernail to pop them off. Live nits need to be close to the warm scalp to survive; casings that are farther than a centimeter away from the scalp are probably empty or contain dead eggs.

Head - Louse - Pediculus - Humanus - Capitis

Once hatched, a live human head louse, or Pediculus humanus capitis, grows no larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser. It’s grayish white. And its...
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