Lice are a dreaded pest, and for good reason. The louse is a parasite that infests the human scalp, reproducing quickly and then attempting to spread to other people. Lice drink blood through the scalp, which causes an itching.
While lice do not spread disease, they do spread themselves, utilizing clothing, bedding, hats, or simple physical contact to move from one scalp to the next. While lice can be annoying to eradicate, there are ways to eliminate this pest.
To identify a lice infestation, you will need to look very carefully at the head. Lice are tiny, roughly the size of a sesame seed, with six legs. Lice vary in color, and often seem to match the color of the hair they are infesting, making them difficult to spot.
The eggs, called lice nits, are very small ovals attached at the base of strands of hair. When checking for lice, it is easiest to check in areas where hair becomes thinner: where the hairline ends at the back of the neck, and behind the ears. Lice in these areas will have left the cover of the thicker hair, making them easy to pick out.
While it is tempting to believe that it is only possible to catch lice as a result of unsanitary conditions, this is not the case. Lice have no preference between clean and dirty hair, and since most spreading of lice comes from head to head contact, a poorly cleaned house does little to stop their spread.
Lice can strike anyone who gets too close to someone who has lice, and from there can continue spreading. The only way to protect yourself from lice is to deal with them as soon as possible after noticing the infestation, before they have a chance to spread.
If you find lice or lice nits on someone in your household, the first thing to do is to check everyone else. Look near the neck and ears for signs of the pests, and recheck frequently until the threat is dealt with. Supermarkets usually have anti-lice shampoo on sale; buy a bottle and have everyone affected follow the directions on the bottle. This usually involves letting it sit in the hair for a while and then rinsing, applied every day for a few days.
Meanwhile, start washing any items that may have picked up lice; bedding, clothing, pillows, cushions, etc. Lice can only live without food (away from a human scalp) for 24 hours, so after that point, all fabric will be safe. It is very important during the treatment to quarantine the lice and not allow them to spread any further before they are dealt with, or there may be recurring infestations.
Lice are an annoying pest, but they are not difficult to deal with once you are aware of them. As long as you act quickly to treat the infestation, and are careful about not allowing them to spread, lice are no threat.