Lice can be very difficult to see sometimes. They are particularly difficult to detect when the infestation is relatively new, because the lice will be very tiny and the eggs may not be too plentiful. Also, if the hair is blond or sandy-colored, the lice eggs can blend into the color of the hair.
Lice tend to move quickly as a person’s hair is pulled back to be inspected. They also run away from light, which sometimes make them difficult to see.
Eggs are often confused with flakes in the hair. The primary method to tell the difference between a flake and an egg is that the egg will not come off the hair very easily. The flake can be easily flicked aside but the eggs need to be actually pulled off of the hair.
Head lice cannot survive off a human head for more than two days. Most die within 15 hours. As a result, they can’t infest your home. With some very simple techniques you can make sure that any lice at home can be eliminated. It is not recommend that you use sprays in your home. They will unnecessarily expose your household to harmful chemicals.
The following guidelines are provided by the Centers for Disease Control:
Spending much time and money on housecleaning activities is not necessary to avoid re-infestation by lice that have crawled or nits on shed hairs that may have fallen off the head. Do not use fumigant sprays; they can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
This method has been used for thousands of years and has been time-proven to be effective if done properly. It can be effectively done at home or by a professional lice technician. If done by yourself, please know that since most parents are not experienced at lice-removal, this will take substantially more time than a professional treatment in order to ensure all the lice are removed. The parent will need to perform the comb-out procedure for about two hours, every other day, for 10 days. If both the live lice and the eggs are not completely removed, the infestation will return. Even in the case of using a professional comb-out service, you will typically need to repeat the procedure at least once.
Below is a link to a video that provides a step-by-step guide on how to do a comb-out yourself and describes the tools and products you will need.
2. CUTTING OFF THE HAIR:
Lice live both on the scalp and in the hair. Their eggs attach to the hair and are typically at least ¼” away from the scalp but sometimes can cling to the base of the follicles. Coupled with a topical treatment that kills the live lice, cutting off the hair to 1/8″ (buzz cut) is one method to remove the eggs since you are cutting off the hair they are attached to. Once the hair is cut, it is important that the head be carefully inspected to make sure there are no eggs still on the hair.
This is a drastic approach, but it is an alternative method of making sure the lice are removed. This is usually too extreme for girls, but is certainly an option for boys.
Please keep in mind that cutting off the hair must be combined with an effective topical treatment such as a dimethicone oil application, which is a 100% non-toxic product. In a clinical test using dimethicone,* 92% of patients showed no signs of live lice one hour after the treatment.
The primary issue with this method is finding someone to cut the hair. Most hair salons either don’t want people with lice in their salon or are prohibited from treating them because of health code violations. If you go this route, you should be prepared to buy hair clippers and do the job yourself.
*(Clinical efficacy and safety in head lice infection by Pediculus humanis capitis De Geer [Anoplura: Pediculidae] of a capillary spray containing a silicon-oil complex, 2010)
3. HEATED-AIR TREATMENT:
There is an FDA-cleared medical device called AirAllé® that kills lice and 99.2 percent of lice eggs through dehydration.
This device requires a trained operator. Your regular hair blow-dryer will not work.
To date, there have been over 130,000 treatments with the AirAllé® device with less than 1 percent of the people needing to be re-treated. Currently, the only organization providing the AirAllé® treatment is Lice Clinics of America.
Click here for a comparison of lice treatments that have been clinically tested.