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Head, Body and Pubic Lice Explained

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 29 Oct 2016 | comments*Discuss
Parasite Insect Pediculosis Head Louse

Probably one of the most loathed and detested pests of all time; even the word “lice” is enough to have most people itching and scratching. A sort of flat, wingless insect, there are over 3,000 types of lice around the globe and all are parasites, living on every kind of bird and mammal – all that is except bats and the world’s only two egg-laying mammals, the duck-billed platypus and the spiny anteater.

Each kind of louse is highly specialised, often only able to live on a very small number of host animals – and some types are confined to particular parts of their host’s body. There are three kinds which can be a particular problem for humans – the head, body and pubic louse. Infestation with these lice is known as "pediculosis" and hence treatments to kill them are called "pediculicides".

Head Lice

Head lice – greyish brown in colour and around 2mm long – live on the scalp and neck. They live for about three weeks, the female laying up to six eggs a day which she attaches to hairs. These eggs are the “nits” and hatch about a week later.

Anyone can get head lice; it is a common misconception that they only infest people with dirty hair – and hair length seems irrelevant too. They are most commonly found in children under the age of 11 and girls seem more prone to head lice, largely since they put their heads together more frequently than boys and head to head contact is the usual way they spread.

These lice can cause itchiness and irritation, but this can take a long time to develop in some people if at all, so it is not a reliable indication. Difficult to spot on the hair, diagnosis typically involves the use of the proverbial “fine-toothed comb” and a number of over-the-counter products are available as treatments.

Body Lice

Body lice, by contrast, live on the bodies of infected people, their clothes or bedding, their eggs being laid in the seams of clothes or bedding, though occasionally they may be attached to body hair. These lice are typically spread under crowded conditions or where hygiene is poor, either through direct contact or indirectly, via shared clothing, bedding or towels and are known to have spread diseases, such as typhus and louse-borne relapsing fever.

Itching and rashes are common symptoms and in the long-term, infestation may lead to a thickening and discoloration of the skin, particularly around the groin and inner thighs. Treatment involves washing all clothes, bedding and towels at the hottest appropriate temperature and the use of pediculicide body-wash, containing permethrin or pyrethrin.

Pubic Lice

Pubic lice – sometimes called crabs – principally live in pubic hair, but can also thrive in underarm hair, on hairy legs and chests and sometimes in beards, eyebrows and eyelashes. Around 2mm in length they are passed on through sexual – or very close physical – contact, crawling from hair to hair, though the eggs can survive for some time away from the body, making it possible for them to be transmitted via shared clothes, bedding or towels.

The typical symptoms of an infection include itchy skin or inflammation, visible eggs or lice and occasional spots of blood as the lice feed. Fortunately, pubic lice can be easily treated with a variety of shampoos, creams or lotions available from the local dispensing chemist – and shaving off pubic hair is not essential, though, obviously, it can help.

With any type of louse infestation it is important to inform all possible contacts so they can be treated if they too are infected. While this may be somewhat awkward, to say the least, aside of this embarrassment and the irritation lice may cause, the good news is that they seldom cause any serious illnesses. Although they will not simply clear up themselves, fortunately lice usually respond well to prompt treatment with products readily available over the counter, happily enabling a rather sensitive problem to be addressed with the minimum of further discomfort or fuss.

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My apartment living conditions, we are living with mice, bugs like lice, louse and dust mites, black mold etc.The apartment complex maintenance manager isn't trying to remedy the situation, and I'm trying to find legal representation - but I'm not finding anyone who will listen to my case.Is anyone having similar issues, and if so - have you been able to get legal representation?
Bugged - 29-Oct-16 @ 11:20 PM
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