Q: What can I do to remove the nits from my granddaughter’s hair. She is infested but does not have any lice. I treated that already.
A: Nits are the egg of a louse, a tiny parasitic insect that feeds on tiny amounts of blood drawn from the scalp. Lice are a very common problem, particularly for children. This is because they are highly contagious and can easily spread from person to person – particularly in settings such as day care centers, schools, and during slumber parties. Children have a tendency to share hats, scarves, pills, and combs or brushes, all activities that allow the spread to continue. The eggs are yellow, tan or brown in color, and very tiny before they hatch, resembling dandruff or grains of salt. Adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed or a grain of salt and the nymph is smaller still. Lice will lay their eggs on hair shafts rather close to the scalp because of the temperature that is conducive to hatching. The eggs will hatch within a week or two once they are laid. Following hatching, the eggs shell will remain firmly attached to the hair shaft. The eggs can’t be removed simply by brushing the child’s hair or attempting to whisk them away.
Treatment is accomplished with the use of a medicated shampoo, cream rinses, or lotions to kill the lice. Such remedies are available both over-the-counter and via prescription. This ordinarily kills the lice and nits, however it may take several days following the application before the itching will stop. For extremely difficult cases, an oral medication may be necessary. Keep in mind that treatment may not be completely successful if the solutions are not used correctly or if the lice are resistant to it. Following treatment, the nits should be removed with a very fine-toothed comb. The entire process may require a second go-round in a week to ten days so any newly hatched nits are also killed.
You don’t indicate how old your granddaughter is, so I can only generalize on how to remove the nits. For those children under the age of two, medicated lice treatments should not be used. For those older, use the fine-toothed comb mentioned above on wet, treated hair every three to four days for two weeks following the time the last live louse was seen. The purpose of wetting the hair is to temporarily immobilize the lice, allowing for easier removal. Wet fine-tooth combing is also another alternative to medicated processes for older children. Do not use a hair dryer on the wet hair since some scalp treatments contain flammable ingredients. Coconut shampoos have been found effective in some cases yet I must state that there have been numerous remedies with home products that include mayonnaise and olive oil that don’t resolve the issue.
Then, it is important to take steps to prevent recurrence. This can be accomplished by washing all bed linens and clothing in very hot water (130 degrees). Put the wet clothes in a dryer on a hot cycle for at least 20 minutes. For those items that may not be able to be washed such as some pillows and stuffed animals, they can be placed in an air tight plastic bag for at least three days or sent to a dry cleaner for processing. Carpets and upholstered chairs, pillows and couches should be vacuumed and the vacuum bag should be disposed wrapped in a plastic bag and discarded. This applies to any upholstery in your car, as well. Soak all hair care items such as combs, brushes, barrettes, head bands and clips in either rubbing alcohol or a medicated shampoo for at least one hour. A relatively new shampoo made of Benzoyl alcohol might be effective.
It’s important for every child (or adult) to realize that they may not be responsible for this unpleasant condition. They could lean against an infected pillow, borrow a hairbrush, or simply hug a friend and have the lice transfer from one person to another. As the saying goes — fog happens – and fighting these minute critters makes for a foggy period best avoided. Good luck.