Infestation of the head by head lice is very common especially
in young children aged 4-5 years. The condition does not in any
way indicate a lack of hygiene - in fact, lice are said to prefer
a clean head! There are two types of treatment for lice - one
treats, the other prevents. These are totally different and separate,
and one cannot do the other's job. The lice have first to be killed
with an insecticide (see below), and then prevented with a suitable
repellent. The use of an insecticide to prevent lice causes head
lice to become resistant to insecticides. Insecticides are therefore
reserved purely for the treatment of head lice infestation. Infestation
is best checked for by combing the patient's hair with a fine-toothed
comb over white paper, even when using a repellent this check
should be carried out once a week. The lice appear as small pink
or brown specks. Lice prefer to live in warm sheltered areas and
so are mainly found at the nape of the neck and behind the ears.
Lice feed off the blood supply of the scalp and their salvia can
cause an allergic response - this is what causes the itch. This
response may take weeks to develop so absence of itching does
not mean the absence of head lice. Because they feed directly
from the blood supply an infected person may be very run down
and may require a MULTIVITAMIN for a short period.
Lice lay their eggs on the head and make sure that these stay
on the head by gluing them to the base of the nearest hair shaft.
These "nits" remain firmly stuck to the hair even after treatment
has killed all the lice. The only way to remove nits is with a
fine-toothed comb. People often make the mistake of thinking that
treatment has failed when these are present in the head.
Make sure that lice are actually present. If this is confirmed,
the patient is not just the affected individual, but all of the
family must be treated as well. It is most important that all
family members be treated together to prevent continual passing
of the lice backwards and forwards.
If you have tried a treatment already, what product was used -
many products have been on the market for so long that Irish lice
have got used to them - this means that some lice on the head
will survive. It takes them about three days to breed back the
NOTE: Asthmatics and those with sensitive skin are
treated with a water-based insecticide rather than with the others,
which are all alcohol based. Evaporating alcohol can bring about
an asthmatic attack. Some repellents are also unsuitable.
For alcohol based preparations the lotion should be rubbed gently
into dry hair, with care to cover the whole scalp, especially
back of neck and behind the ears. Allow hair to dry naturally
- no heat, hairdryers, etc., because of the presence of alcohol
in the preparation, stay away from naked flames. To ensure total
kill the lotion should be left in for the period of time indicated
in the instructions before shampooing out (this can be done overnight)
and use a nit comb while wet to remove dead eggs. One application
is usually enough, but it is recommended that treatment be repeated
after 7-9 days.
FINE-TOOTHED COMB A good one is essential for nit
removal after treatment and for weekly checking. While some of
the products contain free combs, the IVORA fine-tooth combs and
far better and will help early detection of any new infestation.
If head lice are present over a prolonged period the victim may
be run down and out of condition, a good multi-vitamin is worth
considering e.g. McCabe's Kiddies Tonic. Lice feed on blood in
the scalp that is very rich in our B Vitamins so these have to
It is essential that the directions for these preparations are
- All family members should be treated at the same time of the
day on the same day to kill all the lice together.
- Head-lice treatments do not kill eggs as they have a protective
coating. Any newly laid eggs will hatch within seven days and
therefore treatment should be repeated then to prevent the newly
hatched lice from laying more eggs and causing a re-infestation.