What happens if you leave head lice untreated?

Have you ever wondered what happens if you leave head lice untreated and what the long-term effects of untreated head lice can be? In this blog, we analyse what can happen if head lice are not properly treated from the beginning.

Untreated head lice complications

Occasionally there are articles in the press about a case of head lice that have been left so long that it has got out of control. These cases show you how serious the consequences can be for the child and the parent if lice are left untreated. An untreated case of head lice can run into complications quite quickly. These complications can cover a range of things:

Untreated head lice can be neglect

A case of this has been recently reported in the press where last month a mother in Scottsburg, Indiana, USA was arrested because her 4-year-old daughter had such a severe head lice infestation that she almost died from it. The severity of the infestation meant that her blood oxygen levels were dangerously low from the lice feeding off her blood.

The head lice had depleted her bloods haemoglobin which is a protein that carries oxygen throughout the body to all its tissues and organs and rids the body of carbon dioxide. The level of depletion can have catastrophic consequences for someone’s health. In hospital she required 4 blood transfusions.

The hospital is quoted as saying ‘Typically haemoglobin levels are around 12 grams per decilitre (g/dL), but the girls were just 1.7 g/dL. Staff at the hospital said the girl’s levels were the lowest they had ever seen and because of it, they declared her a near fatality’.

Reporting of the case on DailyMail.com states that ‘the mother has been charged on several counts of neglect including neglect of a dependent, neglect of a dependent resulting in bodily injury, and neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury’.

Long-term effects of untreated head lice

As you have already read, the long-term health effects on someone with untreated head lice can be extremely severe, to even life threatening. These are not to be ignored or taken lightly as you can see from the response of the authorities when severe cases come to their attention.

Beyond the long-term health effects are the psychological consequences for the person who suffers with it. An academic study by Purdy and True (2012) outlined the findings of a child-centred study, which sought to discover the personal and emotional responses of children to having lice. They identified that in the 7-11 age group having head lice was seen by individuals as a ‘symbolic failure’, associated with (real and imagined) ridicule and blame from peers.

untreated head lice

There was a strong association of head lice with embarrassment, sadness, and anger, as well as peer rejection and negative labelling. 60% of children interviewed had experienced public humiliation as a result of having head lice. Furthermore, most children felt a sense of personal responsibility for having lice and expressed feelings of being ‘bad’ or ‘dirty’. These findings mirror experiences of kindergarten children, which were explored a previous academic study by Mumcuoglu (1991).

There is a clear emphasis in these two studies on the negativity of feelings associated with head lice infestation, which “may prevent the sense of belonging necessary to the preparation for competent adult performance” (Purdy and True, 2012). With severe, long-term infestations this is only exacerbated, creating deeper and more serious damage.

Can untreated head lice cause hair loss?

If left untreated a severe case of head lice can affect the health of the hair itself. An extreme build- up of eggs, lice and the bacteria they carry will make the scalp an unhealthy environment. The eggs themselves feed off the keratin – the hair – drawing nourishment from it and depleting it over time, making it more brittle.

Heavy head lice infestations are undermining the overall health of the individual as well, which in turn will affect the health of their hair. In addition, heavy use of head lice products can affect the hair and block the hair follicles.

Where can I get help with untreated head lice?

If you have a severe, long term, head lice infestation you can get help at The Hairforce. Professional experts at clearing extreme infestations they adapt their clearing process to carefully clear and restore the hair.

If you want your hair back contact us and check out our Google Reviews by clients who have been there. The Hairforce network of nit and head lice removal clinics can sort it out for you quickly, safely and effectively.

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