Embarrassing Bodies Clinic Experiment Video Transcript

Throughout this series we’ve been looking at the causes of embarrassing problems and tonight I’m taking a very close look at one guaranteed to get you scratching.

In the UK right now over two million children are infested with head lice every year.

An average infestation will have around 20 lice and potentially hundreds of eggs, and worryingly many lice are now immune to medicated shampoos.

So, to show us all how they feed, multiply, and spread, but most importantly how to really get rid of them I’m infesting two people with the creepy crawlies to watch what happens.

After searching for some brave volunteers Charlie and her house-mate Ellie step up to the mark, and now I’m going to infest Charlie’s hair with head lice.

Have a look in there, I want to get some of these and put them on one of you really just to work out how they get about, what they get up to, and how they transfer from head to head. Do they jump? Do they fly? How quickly do they spread between you? Who’s going to be infested first with these little creatures? You’re going to go first? Yeah Charlie is going to have ten head lice put directly into her hair. Okay I’m going to pop some on you. Ready for this? You’re very brave!

Then for the next four days she and Ellie are going to be quarantined in their house to see if the lice spread between them.

Head lice are the size of sesame seeds, so I’m using a microscopic camera which magnifies things 50 times their normal size. They move right the way down the hair follicle right to the root of your scalp.

One of the commonest held beliefs about head lice is that they only live clean hair. This is false as they’re happy in any hair, clean or dirty, and you can get them your eyebrows and eyelashes. And once they’re on your head they need to suck your blood every three to six
hours to feed.

Can you see one is right in the middle? It’s red. Guess why that is?

Yeah, I’m afraid to say it’s got very sharp mouth parts that it’s digging down in between your hair follicles into your scalp and having a blood meal.

That’s horrible!

Can you feel them on your head at all?

I feel like I can’t, yeah, I feel that tingling.

I’m starting to itch now!

Head lice running through our hair can tickle but it’s our reaction to their saliva that makes us really itch. This can cause sores and abscesses, but it normally takes three to four weeks before the scratching starts.

Many call head lice nits, but the nits are actually the lice eggs.

A female louse will mate just once with a male in her lifetime then lay eggs every day for about a month before she dies.

The eggs or nits are cemented to the base of your hair, so the warmth of your scalp helps to incubate them.

Do be careful about scratching.


But now it’s time to leave Charlie and Ellie to give their lice time to breed and spread. If the females on Charlie’s head start laying, then she should have a dose of nits immediately.

The question is if and how those lice will transfer onto Ellie’s head. All this talk is starting to make me itch!

To prevent the girls coming into contact with any other head lice infestations and affecting the experiment they’re going to be quarantined in their house for the next four days, and we’ll be back later on to see if the insects have spread, and tell you all the best way to get rid of them.

Children miss two and a half million days of school every year due to head lice but if you get them you should actually just carry on as normal, as if you take a bit of precautionary action you shouldn’t pass them on to others.

And with the help of student housemates Charlie and Ellie I’m conducting an experiment to teach everyone more about nits.

I’ve already infested Charlie with ten head lice.

To be honest it doesn’t feel any different to normal. I don’t even feel like I’ve got them.

And now the girls are in solitary confinement in their home to see if the lice will spread to Ellie.

There are many myths as far as headlice are concerned, not least of which is how they actually travel from head to head.

Don’t they hop? Yeah, they jump from head to head! If you touch heads with somebody they’d jump over!

Contrary to popular belief head lice don’t jump, they don’t swim, they don’t even fly. They just crawl from head to head. Head lice use their claws to literally shimmy up your hair and they mainly spread by us touching heads. As a result we’ve asked the girls to put their heads together more than normal, just like young children would.

We’ve had quite a lot of head to head contact. I’m starting to feel a little bit itchy. I don’t know I’m being paranoid about it.

Four days after putting just ten lice on Charlie’s head I am back with my microscopic camera to see if they’ve bred and laid some nits.

Best place is usually at the back of the head and crown of the head here. They tend to hide around the back. You see that? That looks like a nit to me it doesn’t it!

Looks like poo!

You may be pleased to hear it’s not poo. It is an egg, definitely.

You can do a similar check using a magnifying glass. At the nape of the neck and behind ears are the common places to find them because they’re often warm and damp.

So Ellie shall we look at you? Ellie had no headlice at the beginning of the experiment, so I want to find out if some of the lice I put on Charlie’s hair have crawled over to her.

I can see one there. See, look at that. An egg? So, the lice have definitely shimmied from one head to the other and if the girls did nothing this is what would happen.

Oh, are they all eggs?

They are all eggs. Sticking all along the hair shaft like that that ain’t pretty is it.

No, and that you can imagine is quite a job to get rid of. Yeah to prevent a full-blown infestation nit specialists The Hairforce are delousing the girls with a special heat process that kills the lice by drying them out.

This costs a minimum of fifty pounds and isn’t available everywhere.

And because lice are becoming immune to many medicated sprays the best at-home alternative is to use a knit comb which you comb through wet hair with plenty of conditioner on it, then wipe on kitchen roll or dip into water to see the nits.

For more information go to channel4.com/clinic.

Their hair is finally cleared and I can now reveal how many eggs or nits have been laid in both the girls hair from the original ten lice.

Charlie you had 36 eggs on you. Wow.

And you Ellie, guess how many?


You had 24 eggs.

Both Charlie and Ellie said they barely felt a thing on their hair yet within two weeks Ellie would have had around 160 nits and Charlie 180.

So, don’t wait for the itching to start, do a fortnightly check on your kids hair with a nit comb to find lice early and keep them under control