Fitness Facts: How to get rid of lice

By Jo Gott
Adult Nurse Practitioner, Board Certified, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic

According to Healthline, September is National Head Lice Prevention month. This is probably because school-age children are coming together this month, and lice can be passed from child to child when they are in close contact.

Lice are tiny insects that can live in the hair and skin. The head louse is grayish white in color and is only 2-3 millimeters in length (about the size of a sesame seed).

The life span of the female louse is about one month. During this time, she can lay eggs, called nits, which then hatch into new lice. The female can produce between 7 to 10 nits per day and attach them firmly to the hair shaft region close to the scalp or body.

As mentioned above, lice can live in the hair and scalp on your head, which is very common. More uncommon is for body lice to live on clothing. A third location for lice is in pubic hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, armpits and other body hair.

A common question is, “Do lice fly?” The answer is no. Lice do not fly or jump. They are spread by close person-to-person contact. You also can get lice from sharing items such as combs and hats.

Another common question: How do you tell if someone has lice? Most people experience intense itching on the part of the body where the lice are. Upon closer inspection (usually with the help of another person), the small lice or nits can be seen.

You can get rid of lice without visiting a health care professional. You can:

  • Use a special fine-toothed comb to carefully comb out lice from your hair, and
  • Use a non-prescription cream or lotion (Nix/Permethrin) on your hair that kills lice. Be sure to follow the directions on the label.

You might hear about other treatments for lice that involve products such as olive oil or mayonnaise. Most professionals do not recommend these “natural” treatments.

You also will need to get rid of and kill the lice on items in your home. To do this you can wash clothes, bedding and towels in hot water and dry them on the hottest setting. Vacuum your carpets and furniture. Put things you cannot wash into a sealed plastic bag for two weeks. During the summer, sitting these items in a hot car in Arizona will kill the nits/lice.

Hopefully this article has helped you understand the basics about lice because, chances are, you know someone who is dealing with them -- hopefully not you!

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