Head lice is something that no one would wish upon their household. When we hear the word lice, we typically picture loads upon loads of laundry and lots of scrubbing in the shower, but this isn’t an accurate depiction.
While head lice is unpleasant, to say the least, and you may be tempted to avoid dealing with treating it all together, we’ll show you what can happen if you leave head lice alone.
What Are Head Lice?
Head lice have been plaguing families for centuries and they continue to be an issue today. Head lice are small, wingless insects that feed on human blood that they draw from the scalp. They lay tiny eggs on the hair shaft which hatch and grow into adults. They leave their egg cases behind and these cases move down the hair shaft as the hair grows.
How Do You Get Head Lice?
Lice move extremely quickly and they scurry from one person’s head to another. Contrary to popular belief, lice do not fly or jump from head to head. Instead, you can contract lice through sharing clothing, scarves, hats, or hair brushes with a person who has lice. Head to head contact is another way that lice can move from person to person as well as sharing a bed or linens like towels with someone who has head lice.
If you or someone in your household has head lice, immediate treatment is crucial in keeping the infestation at bay.
Children as especially susceptible to catching head lice at school, daycare, or during extra-curricular activities. Many people have misconceptions about who can get head lice. For example, it’s a common belief that adults do not get lice or that men are immune to head lice because lice do not like testosterone, but this information is inaccurate. Anyone can get lice, including adult men and women. This includes parents, teachers, and other caregivers.
For humans, there are three types of lice: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. These types of lice are isolated to their own respective areas and cannot move around the body. It’s also important to note that animals can’t pass lice on to people or vice versa.
What Are the Symptoms of Head Lice?
If you’re wondering if you or your child has head lice, there are several telltale signs to watch for. Lice is most often associated with head scratching. An itchy or tingly scalp is one of the first indicators of lice, but this symptom often doesn’t appear for four to six weeks after a lice infestation begins. By that time, the lice have had the chance to multiply and spread.
Another head lice sign to watch for is a red, bumpy rash around the base of the neck and the ears. You may also notice that your child is more irritable or tired than normal. This is because head lice are most active at night, which can result in a poor sleep due to head scratching. If you see your child continuously scratching their head in their sleep, make sure to check their head for lice.
You may also notice flakes in the hair that look like dandruff, but unlike dandruff flakes, they aren’t easily removed and cling to the hair shaft. These flakes are the discarded egg cases that appear once young lice hatch and their cases stick to the hair.
What are the Risks of Leaving Head Lice Untreated?
Many people are tempted to skip lice treatments altogether for a variety of reasons. They may be squeamish about dealing with insects, they may want to limit their exposure to chemicals, they may want to save money by not purchasing lice removal kits, or they may simply be misinformed and think that lice will go away on their own. Unfortunately, this isn’t true and treatment is a must if you or other members of your household have lice.
If left untreated, a lice infestation will continue to worsen as the eggs hatch, become adults, and continue to feed on the blood from the scalp, only to lay more eggs and continue the cycle. The worse your infestation becomes, the harder it is to treat. Imagine removing hundreds of eggs, adult lice, and egg cases vs. only a few. If you have a widespread head lice infestation, you’ll likely need several treatments to ensure that you are able to effectively get rid of every last nit.
When discussing the risks associated with not treating lice, it’s important to discuss a common myth, which is that lice carry disease. This is false. Lice don’t carry disease or spread it to humans.
Excessively scratching a rash can put you or your child at a greater risk of a skin infection, but this is not caused by the lice themselves and it’s not cause for worry about lice-borne disease. While lice are bothersome and can cause great anxiety in some people, they cannot make you sick.
Spreading To Other Family Members & Friends
The longer you or your child has head lice, the more likely it is to spread to other members of the family, friends, or classmates. If one person in your home has lice, it’s easier to isolate the issue than it is if an entire family has it.
When several members of the same household have lice, it can be hard to contain, because as one person becomes treated the other person’s lice can continue to spread.
More Difficult Treatment
Left untreated, head lice not only puts you at risk of a widespread infestation that affects your whole household, but the affected people will experience a great deal of discomfort. If one or two adult lice make your head tingle and itch, imagine what it will feel like with dozens of them crawling on your head. That thought alone is enough to motivate people to get their lice infestation treated immediately.
As we’ve seen here, head lice are an anxiety-causing nuisance that many people deal with on a daily basis. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 12 million children in the US suffer from lice infestations each year, and this doesn’t account for parents, teachers, and daycare providers.
If you or someone in your household has head lice, immediate treatment is crucial in keeping the infestation at bay. The longer you leave head lice untreated, no matter your reasoning, the worse the problem becomes. Treating lice yourself at home may be a frustrating inconvenience, but it’s a necessity. If you don’t want to treat lice yourself, there are professionals that can do it for you. While these services come at a cost, they will be worth it if you would otherwise leave your family’s head lice infestation untreated.
Having head lice is not a dangerous condition – it’s a bother more than anything, but it’s something that must be dealt with in a timely manner to prevent further discomfort and the risk of spreading the infestation throughout the home and local community.