Of all the human parasites, head lice is the one you want.

I love talking with people about head lice.  Think Bubba in 'Forest Gump' talking about shrimp or Harlan Pepper in 'Best in Show' naming nuts.  I just love talking about head lice.  However, it seems like the conversations that people have with me about head lice turn to talk about other parasites...bed bugs and scabies.  And in my mind, these parasites are a whole different ball game. I once heard someone say, "I'd rather have bed bugs than lice.  At least they don't live on your body."  My response was something calm and rational like, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?"

Head lice, though they live on your body, are simple to treat.  Just get the bugs and the eggs off the head.  They won't survive for very long off of it.  If you forget the hype and look at the research then you know that you can deal with them relatively quickly and for little cost.  You don't have to worry about your home, belongings, or clothing. Head lice are a pain but the problem is still quite contained and manageable.

Bed bugs are different.  They can reside almost anywhere in your home. They can live without a host for a year. As with head lice, they are manageable but are much harder and more expensive to treat and usually require a home treatment of some kind which is costly.  You often have to replace some furniture.  If you are dealing with bed bugs, I highly recommend that you talk to a professional exterminator - even if you don't use them, they might help you get your facts straight and equip you with the knowledge to help yourself.

Scabies are different.  They live under your skin.  They are microscopic.  They are contagious. Most doctors diagnose scabies based on the skin reaction - you usually need to get a skin scraping from a dermatologist to get an actual proper diagnosis.  With scabies, our only line of defense is pesticide and even after treating yourself and everyone in your household,  it is still difficult to be sure if you have actually beaten it. You have to do laundry, vacuuming, cleaning. Dealing with scabies is real work. You can beat scabies but it can be cost and labour intensive.

Other lice, like body lice and pubic lice (crabs), are pretty easy to treat.  Got body lice? Wash your clothes in hot water, dry them on high heat, always wear clean clothes, keep yourself clean. Got crab lice? Well, you might not find a buddy to remove them manually, so it might be easier to try the pesticidal cream which is still effective on these little critters.

With any of these parasites, we have to push back the paranoia and get informed. We need to stop giving energy to action that doesn't actually work and be willing to work on doing what is actually effective. Keep things in perspective - these parasites just create an itch. They are an uncomfortable inconvenience, not a life threatening situation.  We can handle that, can't we?  Still, I want to stick up for the little pediculosis capitis. The little head louse is hearty and resilient but it also has its weaknesses.  Even without a comb, we can remove lice and nits faster then an adult louse can lay them, so we always have the advantage in the fight. If I had to choose between parasites, I'd always pick head lice - because it is the only one I can actually pick.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your blog! I ran out and got the Licemeister, and have been combing my daughter and I every day. I have not seen any live bugs in over a week, but somehow I am still finding the occasional brown nit on the comb. If I am still finding nits, am I somehow missing the bugs that are laying them with the comb? Thanks very much!

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

You may just still be finding old nits. Or you may be missing the bugs. Just keep doing what you are doing. Eventually you will outrun the head lice cycle. You can also try using a blow dryer (high speed, warm - not hot - heat) to aid in the fight. Check out blog posts about using the blow dryer. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I think my daughter is all clear now, thanks to the advice and way to go Licemeister! I will definitely keep up with the weekly wet-combing now that I know.

I am still combing my hair, I don't find any bugs, haven't in weeks, but I still get brown specks on the comb. When I look at then under the microscope (yes, I know I have issues! the specks aren't bugs, and they don't look like the nits I was pulling off the two of us a couple of weeks back. I am not sure if any hair debris could be brown in colour, or if they are still nits and just don't look the same. I dyed my hair 2 weeks ago, so not sure if it is residual brown from that. No lice professionals where I live, how I wish.

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

I welcome input from other lice professionals. However, please do not promote your products on this blog.