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Resurgence of Head Lice in the UK

With a keen interest in British politics this writer is never afraid to share her opinion

Haed Louse and combs


Head Lice and I

When I was a child in 1950s Great Britain head lice were not unknown. Back then though, when you were a child at school, such things were treat differently.

A dreaded "nit nurse" regularly visited our school. Her mission in life was to seek out any head lice and thoroughly humiliate the offending children.

Unfortunately once that was me.

Back then such an infestation however small was dreadful. You were sent home from school and not allowed to return until the lice were well and truly gone. This meant that ordinary families would be devastated and do everything possible to clean their children's heads. Of course those families who did not care would inevitably lead to further infestations.

As a child my own episode of head lice led to my Mum having my hair cut very short and her keeping it that way until I was old enough to have a say in the matter.

Once home my Mum proceeded to rake through my hair with a fine toothed comb which we knowledgeably called a Nit or Dick comb. Dicks was the slang word for head lice whilst nits were these creatures eggs. These eggs although tiny would attach themselves to strands of hair.

My Mum would comb my hair for hours on end until the offending lice or eggs dropped onto the newspaper that I held my head over. She would then squash the beggars with the edge of the comb. Oh the shame of it.

There was an awful product which was applied to the hair and finished the job off. This made your hair look very greasy and it was rather smelly. This meant that everyone knew you were "lousy".


What are head lice?

"Head lice are human parasites which require human blood to survive. They have been around since the beginning of time, at least a few thousand years.

Head Lice can live on a human being, or host, for approximately 30 days but cannot survive longer than 24 hours off the host. This means that your head lice really need you and they will not vacate your head without a fight.

A female head louse lays up to 3-5 eggs per day. It takes 7-10 days for the eggs to hatch and another 7-10 days for the louse to mature and lay their own eggs"

My next encounter with head lice

Thankfully that was my only infestation with these horrid creatures.

In my late teens I worked at a local Children's Home and some of the children picked up head lice. The children that infected all of the others, had been home for the weekend and brought back more than we wanted. Head's full of lice and nits.

We donned rubber gloves, grabbed the nit cobs and did to them, what my Mum had done to me. We used a product called Suleo, coated their hair and within a few days all was well again. Of course the kids hated having to have the product applied and their hair combed until it was almost pulled out but we were kinder than the nit nurses of old.

Head Lice and Children in the UK today

These days things are very different.

As we all strive to be politically correct, these days, the nit nurses have disappeared. These days teachers are not even allowed to report that a child may have head lice.

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Of course all of this has meant that head lice, in the UK, are on the rampage again.

Some of the products that were used years ago to rid a child of head lice either no longer work or are not acceptable these days.

Combing with an appropriate comb is still the best way to fight an infestation. If you then, overly apply hair conditioner to you or your child's hair the lice and nits cannot survive. Slippery hair is not conducive to head lice.

Sensible advice

More recent products such as Hedrin are generally classed as safe these days and they do work. The product may have a different name in your country.

You can also try mayonnaise, olive oil, and Vaseline to make your hair greasy and ruin the lice's environment.

Now, I know that like me your head will be itching just reading this, but you do need to be aware of this problem.

With the lack of reporting and control of head lice many children and adults are often affected. This can mean that no matter how clean you are you could be unlucky. Someone who has an infestation only needs to lean over you, perhaps on the bus, and you could have lice before you know it.

Prevention is always better than the cure.

If you have children make sure that you check their hair regularly. If an infestation has just begun nit combing and the like may be enough to solve the problem quickly. Also:-

  • Avoid head to head contact both at school and at home.

  • Try not to wash you or your child's hair to often, as head lice love clean hair.

  • Never share clothing especially hats, scarves, sports uniforms, caps and helmets, coats and hair accessories

  • Never share combs, brushes or towels

  • Never lie in beds, on couches or car seats that have recently been in contact with an infested person.

If the worst happens and you, your child or your family get head lice do not panic. It is just one of those things. Remember that usually head lice are a nuisance and not a health hazard.

The Internet will be a valuable resource in learning how to treat heads full of head lice and making sure that a re-infestation does not occur.

Good Luck then, as I must go and wash my itchy head.

It's a HubMob



jeremytorres on September 12, 2011:

Great hub,

Money Glitch from Texas on December 16, 2009:

ugh!!! This is making me itch. I never had to deal with head lice as a child; however, about 10 years ago, I had a bout with them via my 3 nieces catching it from school and then transferring it to their aunt(me) that was visiting. :( Thank goodness I recognized what it was immediately and was able to get rid of it quickly. Needless to say, there is nothing fun nor funny about the situation. Great Hub!

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on December 13, 2009:

That sounds good advice Princessa. Thanks for the input guys

shimon on December 13, 2009:

You can safely and effectively kill lice with salt water or a sauna - learn how to kill lice without killing yourself or the earth...... Pediculicide POISONS do not remove nits and are dangerous.

Wendy Iturrizaga from France on December 13, 2009:

ugh!!! I hate them!

I am glad that France is not that politically correct on that respect!

We used to have that problem every year when the children went back to school until a friend of mine suggested washing their hairs with vinegar once a week for the first few weeks and once a month after that as a prevention treatment.

Krys W from Abertawe, Cymru on December 12, 2009:

Eeeeewww! Brings back memories of several horrid years when my daughters had them. I found putting conditioner on after shampooing, and then combing before rinsing out the conditioner was one of the best ways to get the b____s out.

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on December 11, 2009:

thanks :)

askjanbrass from St. Louis, MO on December 11, 2009:

The head lice pictures are...graphic! This was an informative article, I like nachos.

Great article, thanks for sharing!

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on December 11, 2009:

Thanks Peter for the additional input. Hopefully it will help many

Nit Nurse on December 11, 2009:

How is it that even the mention of nits and head lice can make your scalp start itching? Nits and head lice are extremely common and have nothing to do with cleanliness or hygiene, but somehow, there is still some stigma attached to having head lice. The fact is, if you get them, you are just unlucky.

How head lice have been treated has changed over the years. Affected children used to have their hair shaved off. Later, a nit nurse would visit every school and examine the hair of each child. Now it is down to parents to look for signs of head lice and treat their children themselves.

Head lice are more common amongst children simply because they play together more closely, enabling the head lice to move from one head to another. Girls in particular will often sit literally with their heads together. Head lice are wily little critters, quickly moving from head to head in the search of a good feast of blood.

Nit shampoo products are now widely available, but some of these contain strong chemicals such as permethrin. These toxic chemical-based treatments were initially considered an ideal solution in the treatment of head lice, but the chemicals come into direct contact with a child’s delicate skin, sometimes causing rashes and irritations. Parents worried that these chemicals would be particularly uncomfortable for children suffering from dry skin conditions, such as eczema. Given that some children have to be treated for head lice several times a year, possible long-term effects were also a concern.

There is now a strong move towards a more natural solution in the treatment of head lice. A nit shampoo such as Nit Nurse contains natural oils to fight an infestation. Nit Nurse offers an ideal solution to the problem of head lice by tackling them in two ways. Nit Nurse kills the active lice and dissolves the glue that sticks the egg to the hair. The treatment takes just 10 minutes, and the hair can be combed afterwards using a nit comb to remove the dead eggs. In this way the breeding cycle is broken. The website is very informative and user friendly. Head lice can appear at any time, and can be distressing for children, so it’s well worth having some Nit Nurse ready in the cupboard.

Peter Boyd

H P Roychoudhury from Guwahati, India on December 10, 2009:

Suffering with lice is common phenomena for children but elder should not forget to take necessary steps.

jayjay40 from Bristol England on December 10, 2009:

I never had head lice as a child, but now I work in a school I catch them regularly. It only takes one family not to treat their kids hair and eveyone gets them. But we can't say anything to these parents as they might get offended!! we all have to suffer in silence

Georgina Crawford from Dartmoor on December 10, 2009:

Those *@£%$ lice. I never had them as a child, but my kids have been generous and shared theirs with me as an adult. My son is now 14 and STILL brings them home as pets. He checks his hair daily and if we find any, we use a lotion which contains Indian Neem oil and Tea Tree, coat the hair with it and comb through. This seems to work well as a preventative, al well as a treatment. Not cheap though, it usually costs around £10.

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on December 10, 2009:

Yes I think it was for ringworm. Schools definitely need to get their act in order. Thanks for the visit

CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on December 10, 2009:

Some of my friends have had real problems with their kids bringing head lice back from school. All it takes is one family who don't sort it out and the whole class is infected again. The nit nurse brings back memories! They also used to check the back of our hands. Was never quite sure what for, but I think that it may have been for ringworm.

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on December 09, 2009:

Thanks for the visit Ruby. I stand corrected. I put that info in quotation marks as that is what my research showed.

Yes I have read about dog shampoo working in some cases. I suppose a lot depends if it is fleas or head lice you are dealing with.

Ruby J Jones on December 09, 2009:

I suffered with lice many of times as a child! Mom would torture us with the comb and shampoo send us to school and it would start all over again. I remember the lice nurse as well. We had them over here in the states. Now as an adult and also as a hairdresser I still see it. Thankfully I had 2 boys and when they would get it I would just shave their hair off! People still have the stigma that if you have lice you are dirty, what they don't realize is that is far from the truth! the lice nowadays is stronger than it was back then. As with anything it builds up immunity to the chemical we treat it with. And people don't really know how to rid the whole house of it. They forget to do all the carpets, and even their car!! That is one of the main areas of re-infestation and I must correct you on one point. They can live for up to 2 weeks without a host! I had a client one time whos son got it and she just couldn't get rid of it. She used the store bought stuff and finally went to the doctor to get the super stuff! To no avail. Finally I told her to go get HARTZ green dog shampoo and use it. It worked! I guess that infestation wasn't immune to the dog product! I felt so sorry for the kid as his head was so sore and burnt from the over application of chemicals!

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on December 09, 2009:

Thanks for the visits guys. Yes I agree Eileen. The demise of the nit nurse has led to head lice galore

Eileen Hughes from Northam Western Australia on December 08, 2009:

Ethel I think we all had it. But with my grandchildren they used to get it all the time. They would clean all the bed linen each time and get rid of them. Go back to school and get them again because of the lazy so and so's that would not do theres. I have always said that the kids hairs should all be done at school. Whether it be mothers or someone and do each class all at the same time.

It needs a mass clean up to get rid of them.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on December 08, 2009:

I don't there is any child who hadn't had that experience. At least I wasn't. Such lovely memories.

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