Head lice in adults and parents

Head lice don’t just infest children’s hair. Head lice in adults are more common than you think. As a parent, proximity to children puts you at risk of catching head lice from them. Even as an adult without children you may meet children or the parents of children, and so risk catching head lice from them. In this post, we share advice with how to deal with lice as an adult.

Head lice in adults

Adults are not immune to head lice. In fact, if you have any close contact with children or even parents of children you can be at risk of catching them if they have them. Lice transfer primarily through head to head contact, so you would have to get close to the other person. However, if the person or child has a heavy infestation the risks of catching head lice is higher.

Head lice live off human blood, and whilst they like high blood sugar levels which make children their preferred feeding ground, it doesn’t mean they won’t like adult blood. Women have more naturally higher blood sugar levels than adult men, so you see more women than men with an infestation. Lice are also not overly keen on testosterone in the blood, so this is another reason to prefer adult female blood to adult male blood. However, it is not impossible for men to catch or have head lice as an adult. This risk is higher if the man is a close carer of the children.

Are parents at risk of catching head lice?

head lice in adults

As a parent caring for your child or children you will be in a close relationship naturally with them. This closeness raises the risk of head lice crawling over onto our hair. If you are suspicious that your child might have head lice, tie your hair back and get on with checking their hair methodically and thoroughly. Do then check your own hair and the hair of your partner to ensure neither of you have caught them either as head lice in adults is not uncommon. 

What is the best treatment?

If you find head lice on yourself and your children, you need to treat it quickly in order to shut down all the different stages of development that will be underway in the hair. The professional advice is to not rely on head lice treatment products to do it for you. These have very low rates of effectiveness and therefore often operate simply as expensive combing aids. When they do work, they may kill the head lice. However, they will not affect the eggs, and it is the eggs that often defeat adults and parents alike.

To treat any head lice infestation here is some professional advice from The Hairforce for you to follow:

  • the most effective thing you can do is nit comb them all out of the hair. You need to be thorough and do it more frequently than once a week, so you don’t give the lice time to grow up into adults and lay more eggs
  • The best way to do nit combing is by using a good quality, long-toothed metal nit comb
  • Effective checking and clearing are not just down to the comb. You need an organized system to ensure you comb the whole head thoroughly, so you don’t miss anything
  • To do this get an adult friend or your partner to divide the hair into sections and ponytail each of them to control the task – 8 sections in total, 4 each side should do it
  • Then they need to work through each section touching the scalp with the nit comb and taking the nit comb all the way through the hair and out. Put a little conditioner on it so it can glide through the hair and comb thoroughly. Then, clean the comb with white toilet paper or tissue as you go so you can inspect anything you extract and then bin it
  • Look at the toilet paper to see if there are any brown or black specks – if they are tear-dropped shaped then they are nits (the eggs), if you find head lice, they have 6 legs and can be tiny. They can be pale if they are young or as they grow older, they are dark from old oxidized blood
  • When they finish a section, re-bunch and move on to the next until you have checked or combed out every section thoroughly
  • Head lice are movement-sensitive, so as soon as someone touches the hair, they are running away from, so dividing the hair into sections helps contain and control that movement
  • Timing is everything with clearing head lice. The eggs take 7 to 11 days to hatch and the lice take 9 to 12 days to mature into adults. When you find them the combing cycle should be as follows: day 1, day 2, day 6, day 9, day 12

Does hair dye kill head lice?

Head lice have evolved around some very serious pesticides and chemicals which is why the head lice product treatments keep failing at controlling infestations. Hair dye chemicals and solutions do not affect head lice and will not kill them. In fact, they will simply dye them the colour you are using. If you dye your hair pink don’t be surprised to find pink lice and pink eggs attached to your hair!

How can parents protect themselves?

To protect your hair from head lice a parent must follow the same advice as given to children – tie your hair back around the kids! If you don’t want to do this all the time, then make sure you check your child regularly to ensure they are clear of any head lice and eggs. When you do the checking, tie your hair back for that, reducing the risk you will catch something as you are rooting around in their hair.

If you are unsure, want a professional check, or have found that you have lice as an adult and need it all cleared out, then do contact us. Our network of nit and head lice removal clinics can sort it for you in 2 appointments, 7 days apart.

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