Nits &
head lice.
Terrorising
the nation’s
scalp

“I took my 6 year old daughter on Monday to the doctors – after looking in her hair he said he was sure it wasn’t head lice but that it was dermatitis, and recommended a medicated shampoo. On Wednesday she was sent home from school because they saw nits behind her ears. She was crying her eyes out.”

— A mum who called us to book an appointment

Nits and lice are every parent’s nightmare – the blood, sweat and tears they extract from everyone in the family is all too familiar.

It’s hard for the kids having them – they get embarrassed and frustrated, and often find it uncomfortable at school and with their friends. But it is Mum in particular who’s at the sharp end – it is with her that the responsibility to clear it rests, and it is Mum that must accommodate the workload.

Here are some key facts to help Mum’s everywhere that will make you wince, smile and feel more equipped to fight The Enemy.

Facts that make you wince

  • Nits and lice are at epidemic proportions in this country.  Over half of all 11-14 year olds get them each year. Younger and older siblings, parents, grandparents, teachers and carers also get them
  • Head lice are the second most communicable health issue amongst children – the first is the common cold
  • We spend £30 million per year on nit and lice shampoos and treatments in this country but 80% of the time lice are immune to them and this has been proven by leading government research
  • The average infestation is about 20 lice. During their 30 day life span, the female louse lays between 5 and 10 nits (eggs) each day, so the issue can easily escalate to hundreds, and even thousands.
  • The products do not affect the nits (the eggs) whatever they say.
  • They suck your child’s blood directly from the scalp. Without a meal they will die within 24 – 48 hours
  • You need to remove not only all the lice, but all the nits as well to break an infestation. If not the nits hatch, mature, mate, they lay eggs, those eggs mature, hatch and so on. The information out there on how to get rid of nit and head lice is not always that clear

Facts that make you smile

  • The female louse is to be admired. After she has mated once, she doesn’t have to mate ever again. She simply keeps spare sperm in a special container in her body and uses it as she goes, laying eggs daily for the rest of her days (30 to be precise)
  • Head lice are genetically programmed to move from one head to another  – they are destined to move to someone else in the family or to a friend
  • Whilst they interbreed their genetics are protected so they aren’t ‘affected’ by it
  • An adult louse can really move it! They can crawl 23 cm in a minute

Facts to equip you for the fight

  • 53% of people who have them don’t itch and if your child doesn’t itch you probably don’t look. To avoid getting caught out do a weekly or fortnightly check with a nit comb so you can catch them early
  • Hairdressers are legally obliged to turn someone away with a nit and lice problem in case they pass it on to their other customers
  • Many people mistake dandruff etc for nits. The test is to see if you can easily pull what you find off the hair with your fingers. If it won’t come away easily and is glued onto the hair it is more than likely a nit. They are tear drop shaped and are brownish in colour. If it is clear or white in colour then it has already hatched
  • If you want to get rid of nits and head lice you need to understand the life cycle which works like this:
    • Nits – the eggs – take 7 to 11 days to mature and hatch
    • The baby louse takes 9 to 12 days to grow into an adult
    • Once an adult it needs to find a mate
    • 24 hours after pairing the female lays her first eggs – and then keeps laying them day after day, after day, after day
  • Many people find that after clearing their child it’s all back 3 to 4 weeks later and this means they must have re-caught them from someone. However what this usually means is that they weren’t fully cleared in the first place. The lice might have been removed but not all the nits and 3 to 4 weeks later those nits have hatched and matured
  • To break this cycle you have to keep clearing both the nits as well as the lice out of the hair day after day
  • When the products work they will kill the lice, but they won’t necessarily kill the nits. This is why you have to reapply these products 2 weeks later, to catch anything that has successfully hatched since the last treatment. However it is through overuse and misuse that lice have become immune to these shampoos and treatments and 80% of the time they don’t work at all
  • The products will not get rid of the nits – there’s no getting away from the workload, these have to be combed out. Why do you think the products often include a nit comb even though they imply they have affected the nits (the eggs)?
  • Hand removal is still the best way of getting rid of nits and lice because:
    • Nits and lice cannot develop immunity to it
    • As a matter of course you tackle the nits as well as the lice and that way break the cycle