There are a number of ways in which head lice can be noticed before an outbreak becomes significant. Unfortunately, there are also a number of reasons why it can escape recognition. A commonly reiterated comment is that “one must have the eyes of a head lice professional to be able to identify an infestation”, however, knowing the correct techniques and using the correct tools will be an incredible advantage to everyone involved.
There are a number of reasons why head lice are difficult to locate. A commonly held belief is that if a child had head lice they will immediately begin to itch. I hear almost every day, “he/she only started itching last night.” The itch from head lice, contrary to popular belief, is an allergy. Just like any allergy one can be susceptible or their body may not react to the allergen. When lice feed on us their saliva enter our bloodstream as foreign material causing our immune system to begin to activate and react to the saliva. Repeated exposure will elicit a response, very much like a mosquito bite, in which our bodies want to rid us of the allergen. This response is an itchy scalp. The first scratching may begin to occur within the first 2-3 weeks. It should be noted again that one may never itch since not everyone is allergic to the louse saliva.
Another reason head lice are so difficult to notice is due to the fact that they can camouflage themselves in the hair of the host individual. Head lice infestations can be transparent, beige, red, brown and even black. The newly hatched babies, casings and nits are all transparent so they show the color of their environment while looking at them. The nits typically have a brown speck within them which is the embryo, and the live bugs can have a two-toned look to them directly after a feeding. This camouflage process is part of the reason why dry head checks are less effective than a wet head check using the proper comb. Having the correct tools such as the Head Hunters Naturals Pro-Lice Comb is imperative if you would like to be thorough to insure nothing is missed while checking for lice. Wiping what is combed from the head on something white like a paper towel is a great step because you will immediately be able to tell if something has been combed off. However, do not get nits confused with dandruff. When dandruff is wiped on a paper towel it will be fairly close to the host’s skin color and slightly irregular in shape. When nits are wiped off they will have a very distinct shape, much like a tear drop, and similar color to the host hair.
Head lice can be very tricky to notice, but with the few steps mentioned and the proper tools anyone can make sure their children and themselves will be nit free!