A head lice outbreak can strike at any moment, and unfortunately can be difficult to prevent. Those with children can attest to how frequently these can occur, as cases spread through large groups like wildfire.
Although NHS guidelines* say there is no need to send children home, many schools still do so to prevent the spread and aid eradication, often not allowing them back until free of infestation. This can cause havoc with the already time poor among us.
If you need help, if you need information, if you need a plan – we’ve got you covered.
1. KNOW YOUR ENEMY
A bit of knowledge goes a long way, and we’ve done most of the scouting to assist you in getting your household back into fighting shape as soon as possible.
The first thing to do is confirm the presence of the enemy. Lice and their eggs (nits) can be detected visually but the task is made easier by using a comb to part the hair and inspect the scalp and individual strands. They also congregate around the backs of the ears and neck.
Lice grow up to 3 mm in length and range from a yellow-white to grey-brown in colour. They are much easier to spot in fairer hair but blend in with darker hair.
The eggs are similar in colour, but egg shells left over from hatched nymphs (young lice) are white in colour and can aid in the detection of an infestation in darker hair. Although the presence of an egg is not outright confirmation of an infestation without seeing a live louse, it certainly encourages a more thorough inspection of those potentially affected.
Other signs of infestation include a rash and itching on head/scalp.
Once an infestation is detected you have some options but must act quickly to prevent further spread.
2. PLAN YOUR ATTACK
Establish who needs to be treated.
Everyone in the household is potentially and likely to be affected. While you can check each person individually to establish whether they need treating or not, the potential for missing even a single louse or egg means it’s strongly recommended to treat everyone as a precaution.
Thankfully you do not have to worry about your pets. Lice are species specific and cannot be transferred between animals and humans. Pets have their own types of lice to contend with.
Once you know the number of people involved, you’ll have a better understanding of the size of the task and resources needed.
Synchronise Your Watches.
Everyone needs to be treated at the same time, and this is non-negotiable.
Treating members of the household at different times can lead to the re-infestation of treated individuals as they come into contact with those awaiting treatment.
Ideally you’ll have everyone in the same room being treated together to achieve the maximum result, and save you wasting time, money and effort. Agree a time and stick to it.
Head lice can survive for several days out of hair which implies a potential for re-infection, but official guidance states the cleaning and/or fumigating of items that have come into contact with lice is not necessary.
3. CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON
There are several methods of treating head lice to choose from.
Using a special fine-toothed detection comb, you methodically brush through each and every section of hair removing any accumulated lice and eggs after each pass.
Working on wet hair, combing takes up to 30 mins to thoroughly examine the entire head of hair, and minimise any lice or eggs slipping past your inspection.
You should wash the hair and use conditioner if combing wet hair, as this will help in the detangling and brushing of hair before fine combing.
Combing is quite a labour-intensive method as it needs to be done every few days for at least 2 weeks, and even this may not completely eradicate all trace of infestation. Because combing doesn’t remove all the eggs, after the first comb through to remove adult lice you must then continually catch the nymphs as they hatch before they begin laying eggs.
If a child attends a school that has a ‘stay at home’ policy this can result in them missing a lot of school which is not ideal.
Treatments that use pesticides or poisons to kill infestations are classed as chemical treatments.
Newer methods of dealing with head lice have more recently been developed, which don’t use poisons or pesticides.
Different treatments have varying application methods. Some work to kill the infestation outright in a single treatment, while others require follow up applications set time periods after the first.
Physical treatments involve non-pesticide based methods that work to kill lice and eggs through other means - typically through drowning or dehydrating them in a liquid.
A benefit of some treatments is that as they are ideally a one-time event and save a significant amount of time and effort when compared with combing alone. The treatment can simply be applied and left in for the required amount of time before combing out and washing.
Vamousse Headlice Treatment is a fast working and effective single use form of treatment and is scientifically proven to kill up to 100% of lice and eggs in only 15 minutes. Other treatments can take varying times to achieve results.
4. PREPARE YOUR SUBJECTS AND EXECUTE THE PLAN
Gather together everyone that needs treating, as it is crucial they all be treated at the same time. Otherwise one individual may re-infect the group during gap between their treatments.
Wash and condition their hair if using the wet comb method and begin the process of extermination.
If combing, remember it needs to be done on a regular basis. Comb through every few days for at least two weeks for every head in the house, ideally with their own comb to prevent cross infestation.
Physical and chemical treatments should all be done together at the same time to ensure nothing escapes and should follow the exact instructions as per the individual treatment.
5. SAFEGUARD AGAINST FUTURE ATTACKS
As we mentioned at the start, head lice infestations can’t be fully prevented. There is however, a Vamousse shampoo which can be used on a regular basis as a replacement for your normal shampoo. The shampoo helps stamp out undetected head lice infestations as it occurs.
However, if you or a family member do end up contracting head lice don’t panic! Vamousse’s head lice treatment mousse is fast working and effective - and is clinically proven to kill up to 100% of Lice and Eggs.
*The NHS is independent and does not endorse any specific product.