Red alert: Foreign invasion

Borne from an impenetrable pod, covered in armour, hungry and clawing their way to feed on the human race. Sound like your worst nightmare from a Sci-Fi film? Well these alien creatures, Pediculous Capitis are commonly known on this planet as Head lice.

Itch, itch, scratch, scratch. I know you are!

The shear mention of these elusive creatures brings about the same response from all men, great or small and sends everyone into a panic. But do not despair as having an understanding about what you are defending yourself against is the best way to win the battle of the bugs.

Your unwanted guests are parasites and the mature adult is called the Louse and will lay the eggs or nits on the hair strand where they are left to incubate, so let’s begin with the adults, henceforth known as the crawlies.

The crawlies have claws that enable them to attach themselves to the hair strand and travel from strand to strand, a bit like Tarzan. They DO NOT jump from head to head but simply require hair to hair contact.  Once on their new host they can feed using a probe that pierces the skin to gouge on your blood, a little like a mosquito. To do this they inject you with an anaesthetic so you are unaware of their presence.

So what about the scratching? This is an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic that causes the scratching which is why there is not always an obvious sign of their inhabitancy as not everyone has a sensitivity to their poison/drug.

Other than feeding the crawlies love to reproduce so they begin laying their eggs and securely attach them to the hair strands, usually not more than an inch from the scalp in areas on the head such as the crown, nape and behind the ears. Just like any good parent these areas are chosen as they have a greater density of hair that will keep their offspring warm and safe until they are ready to hatch.

The egg pods are very hard to see as when inhabited as they are brown and almost always blend with the colour of the hair and often the only time when we first notice that we have had visitors is when the white specks stand out on the hair shafts, but unfortunately it is too late as the pods have already been vacated.

Once they have utilised the hospitality of their host they will go looking for another to repeat the process of renewal to ensure the survival of their kind.

So how do we fight these alien creatures to keep ourselves from being overrun?

A united front is the best action to win a battle so with the right tactical manoeuvres we can all help to eradicate these annoying and frustrating cling-ons.

Once detected one option is to use a topical application of a solution to eradicate the crawlies. There are many on the market that you can choose with more naturally derived products also available. The most important thing to remember when using these treatments, whichever you choose, is to always follow the manufactures instructions. The only addition I will add is that when the processing time is complete you must check and see if they are dead. This species has built up resistance to a lot of products on the market so to check that the treatment has been successful you should comb through a section of hair with a fine toothed comb and spread the contents of the comb onto a tissue. This should allow you to see the crawlies and see if they are dead. If there is any movement from the crawlies after the completed processing time then they are resistant to the particular product you have purchased and the treatment has not been successful. It is now time to go to the store and have a look for another product with a different active chemical and repeat this process again until the crawlies are dead. Annoying I know although if the treatment has not worked you will never break the cycle.

During the next week you may look for the existence of these crawlies again only to find that they are back!!!!

What, you saw that they were dead and you were right. So how have they reappeared you may ask?

Well the treatment will only kill the crawlies and not the nits who are tightly secured within their pods so you have been successful in eradicating the adults but the babies will now begin to hatch. But there is no need for despair as the juveniles do not reach sexual maturity until they are a week old so the next step is a must. You should use the same product that you used last in the same way EXACTLY 7 days after the first application. By this time all of the pods will have emptied and the remainder of the species will be eradicated.

The other method used to evict these unwanted guests is to use a manual approach. By this I mean you have to physically sit and remove each crawlie and then their nits by hand. This is done with conditioner and a fine tooth or nit comb. The whole head and each and every hair strand must be combed to remove the unwanted guests. This process should be repeated for 7 days as the same rules will apply.

So once all of your visitors have gone you do not want a repeat booking so a few simple tips apply. Keep hair tied back as much as possible and a groovy braid or plait is always a popular option and check regularly for the unwanted guest to catch the visit quickly.

I would love to see these alien creatures eradicated for good so if we all remain vigilant the battle of the bugs may be won and we can close the Hair B and B’s.

Stuart Cloake