Transmission of head lice among toddlers and children is common and often results from close and frequent contact of the head or hair. Toys, furniture, carpets, and clothing can all offer temporary habitat for fleas that will jump on children if there is an opportunity – offering head lice a chance to be transferred and developed.
But while schools and parents often talk about "head louse outbreaks" the reality is that humans have head lice that lived on them for thousands of years. And they are very common in the past so almost every family has a special comb to remove and keep them under control or in low numbers.
Our ancestors produce these fine combs using different materials, including bones, wood and even cactus spines, to allow for minimum space between the comb teeth to eliminate fleas. And because the majority of people in the community have head lice – not just babies – this comb is the main or only tool used to tease or brush hair.
Even in Poland in the 1600s, the hairstyle was known as "Polonica plica"Or Polish style, quite fashionable. Style, which resembles tangled hair, is formed as a result of negligence – often combined with severe head lice – and will be sticky and moist.
Knowledge of head lice
The head lice cycle begins when female lice lay eggs attached to the hair by attaching it to the root tip. Fleas produce substances that are very strong like cement to do this.
The position of the newly sent egg (known as nit) is approximately 5 mm from the scalp. This distance cannot be modified, or the embryo will not develop – because the temperature will not be right.
During development, nits follow a certain temperature regime, a slight decrease in temperature when the hair grows and the hole becomes farther away from the scalp. So the nits closest to the scalp are the most recently placed in the hair – and this is probably an embryo of healthy living. Holes that are more than two centimeters from the scalp look very clear, with whitish reflections. This is an empty eggshell.
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How to get rid of it
Two forms of head lice must be ensured as control targets: newborn females and eggs. To get rid of both forms, a fine comb – known as a flea or flea comb – has proven effective in terms of treatment and prevention of severe flea infestations.
Of course, pharmacies tend to be well filled with formulas and solutions to kill head lice – but there are other natural or non-chemical treatments that might still be worth a try. Medicines for traditional plants are still used in continental Europe – for example, herbal infusions from long bean plants. The infusion is made from dried beans and then applied to the scalp.
In the Tudor era, Hyssop oil, an aromatic herb was also used as a treatment for head lice. And Hyssop oil is still used to control fleas today.
Given the specific temperature required for developing flea eggs – and that drastic changes in temperature kill them – a new method is also now being developed to include heat as part of routine maintenance. Investigation on devices that produce hot air shows high efficacy when applied regularly.
So to combat head lice without using dirty shampoo and toxic chemicals, parents may want to try a combination of treatments: traditional metal lice combs, and herbal infusions to be applied topically to the hair or scalp, along with short but regular exposure. use of a hot hair dryer.
Alejandra Perotti, Associate Professor in Invertebrate Biology, University of Reading
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