Intense Itching of scalp? Beware — you may be infected with lice!

Have you ever experienced a time when you feel like scratching your scalp out because of intense itching of your scalp? You’ve tried various anti-dandruff shampoos, tried the anti-itch hair creams in the market but to no avail? A-ha! Maybe it’s not dandruff in the first place, have you ever wondered that maybe, just maybe, you have lice (Kuto in Tagalog)?

Lice affect people of all ages. Lice (s.louse) also known as “kuto” in Tagalog are small, wingless parasitic insects that depends on human blood for survival.  Lice lay their eggs on hair shafts. When they hatch, mature and start to feed on human blood, they inject their digestive juices and excrement into the skin or scalp, thereby resulting to mild and/or severe itching.  You’ll probably hate them most when they’ve hatched! Because that’s the time when you’re likely to have that scratch-all-you-want day due to the itchiness you’ll feel. Contrary to some beliefs, (remember when people tell us to avoid people with live because the lice will fly to our hair?) lice cannot fly due to their short,  stumpy legs.

They are said to be feeding on human blood at least 5x each day. In fact, what happens is that they can spread easily from person to person through body contact, and/or personal items (clothes, undergarments, comb/hairbrush). Eventhough lice aren’t dangerous and they don’t spread a serious disease, doesn’t mean that it’s okay to have it. No!

They are contagious and can cause irritation on the scalp and in the skin which can lead to secondary infection if left untreated. Their bites causes itchiness to either the skin/scalp which can lead to irritation and making it inflamed due to persistent scratching–what more, it can even cause an infection! Isn’t it annoying?

There are 3 varieties of lies that infest humans: Pediculus Humanus Capitis (Head louse), Pediculus Corporis (Body Louse) and Phthirus Pubis (Pubic Lice). Obviously, their names tell where these parasites can be found in the body.

Pediculus Humanus Capitis or (Head louse) are non-disease-carrying six-legged parasite that spends their entire life on the human scalp. Pediculus Corporis or Body Louse, unlike the head lice, are known to spread disease. They lay their eggs on clothing but afterward move to feed on the skin. Body lice have caused epidemics of typhus (when lice are transferred from a person having typhus to another individual) and louse-borne relapsing fever. Phthirus Pubis (Pubic Lice), sometimes called “crabs” infest hair in the pubic area, although they can infest other body hair.

Generally, lice infestation are most commonly spread through close person-to-person contact, but can also be spread through contact with things like clothing, bed&bed linens, towels, or comb/hairbrush that have been used by an infested person. Also, those with poor hygiene and live in a crowded area with poor sanitation practices are at high risk of getting infested.

Sometimes, it is possible to be infested and show no symptoms, but if yes, its common symptoms are intense itching of the body part involved (scalp for head louse, skin for body louse and pubic hair for pubic lice); scratch marks, sometimes- discoloration and inflammation of the infested area due to the reaction to the proteins in the saliva of lice. The constant scratching due to intense itching also becomes a problem because it can lead to a secondary bacterial infection.

So it is important that, as early as possible, when diagnosed with a probable infestation of lice, measures be done to stop it!

Aside from the  chemical treatments available in drugstores/supermarkets that aim to kill the louse, (depending on the body part affected).  However, before opting for chemical treatment, improving one’s hygiene and sanitation practices are probably one of your best options. Remember: It’s better to start with oneself before trying the chemical treatments/options.

  • A regular bath and change of clean clothes. When taking a bath, wash hair thoroughly and shampoo regularly to remove dirt.
  • Clothes, towels, beddings and other garments used by the infested person should be laundered using hot water and machine dried using the hot cycle/under the sun. This will kill the lice.
  • CLEANING IS A MUST! Although not necessary since lice often die within 2 days of not feeding on human blood, patients can vacuum those areas like car seats, sofas, bed, that might have been in contact with the person.
  • One can also use a special comb, a fine-toothed comb (called suyod in Tagalog) when combing. Persistence is required with this due to the small size of the lice and its life cycle, so combing is recommended at least once/twice a week.
  • CONSIDER PERSONAL THINGS, PERSONAL. To prevent future infections, avoid sharing personal items like pillow cases, clothes, comb/brush, and if you’re going to go to sleepovers, you can bring your own bed linen and pillow cases.
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