||Last Updated: Jan 30, 2013 - 8:19:38 AM
|This is an enlarged view of a female head louse, Pediculus humanus var. capitis. Pediculus humanus var. capitis, the head louse, is an insect of the order Anoplura and is an ectoparasite whose only host is humans. The louse feeds on blood several times daily, and resides close to the scalp to maintain its body temperature.||
|This is an illustration of the life cycle of Pediculus humanus capitis, the causal agent of Head Lice. For a complete description of the life cycle of Pediculus humanus capitis, the causal agent of Head Lice.||
|EIS (Epidemic Intelligence Service) officer screening person for head lice.|
|Unhatched nit of a head louse, Pediculus humanus var capitis parasite. Note red eyespots of developing embryo.||
| Nits are difficult to spot, but redness at the hairline at the back of the neck and behind ears can be tell-tale signs.|
A recent national Public
Policy Polling survey of 830 Americans tested the popularity of a number of
stereotypically unsavory things against that of the U.S. Congress. Asking
"which do you have a higher opinion of?," Americans only marginally
favored Congress over telemarketers, Lindsay Lohan, and playground bullies.
Citizens of our country did not, however, rank our lawmakers over lice. In
fact, it wasn't even close. The little buggers received a 67% approval over
Congress' 19% (14% were undecided, which is not exactly a resounding nod to the
House and Senate, either).
We suspect, however, that these results point to less of a love for the louse
than a loathing of recent legislating. In fact, we'd go so far as to say most
Americans would rather invite a member of Congress than a school of lice into
their homes. The lawmaker would be easier to get rid of.
It seems as though lately everyone knows someone who is combating the dreaded
pediculus capitis (head lice). And for those who have found it in their own
households, the presence is painfully personal. In reality, however, this bug
may not be quite the epidemic it appears.
Daniel Island School (DIS) nurse Dana Liles reports that of the 548 children
screened so far this year, only 20 cases of lice were actually discovered. This
is compared to 418 screened/12 discovered during the same time frame in the
prior year. But Liles also points out that there are approximately 100 more
students enrolled this year.
Students are typically screened based on calls from parents or referrals from
teachers noticing chronic itching. Classmates and siblings are then screened,
but Liles tells us the whole process is very discreet: "The whole class is
called down, no one is singled out." Despite the efforts to maintain
privacy, however, Liles cautions that being too
private contributes to the spread of lice. "One of the biggest things is
the need for parents to tell other parents about cases if they've had friends
over," Liles asserts. "Don't keep it a secret; you have to let them
The school's policy is that students found to have lice must go home for
treatment and may return to school following a negative re-check by Ms. Liles.
This is in keeping with the guidelines of "The Red Book," a report
printed every three years by The Committee on Infectious Diseases of the
American Academy of Pediatrics. Daniel Island pediatrician Jennifer Nordby, who
practices at Palmetto Pediatrics and has sons in first and third grades at DIS,
tells us that this reference is the "gold standard" for clinicians
treating infectious diseases in children.
The Red Book states that "children identified as having head lice should
be referred for treatment at the end of the school day and subsequently
excluded from school only until treatment recommended by the child's health
care professional has been started." The guide goes on to support the
absence of a “no-nit” policy at DIS, which would require that children be free
of nits (eggs) before returning to school. The report contends that such
policies have not been effective in controlling head lice transmission. Dr.
Nordby concurs, opining, "The presence of treated nits (egg
casings) is not a reason to exclude a child from school or child
This is good news to parents of kids with lice, as nits can be the most
difficult element of lice infestation to banish. They are, in fact, a
compelling reason to call in a professional like Jewel Daniel, the Lice Wrangler.
She's been showing the bugs who's boss for four years, and has been able to
successfully eradicate lice from scores of homes, many where previous
treatments provided only temporary results. Her very first call to action was
just such a case.
A friend of Daniel's had committed to taking on two foster children, and when
the kids were placed in her care, they were riddled with head lice. Within
days, the frantic mom called Daniel. Having spent countless hours and $1,200
worth of products trying to get rid of the lice only to find repeated relapses,
she was desperate for whatever assistance she could get. "So, I put my
hair up and went down to help her," recalls Daniel.
Incorporating her own mother's painstaking pest process with a bit of online
research, Daniel rid that house, and every head in it, of lice. She also did it
in remarkably short order, and the lice did not return. Her friend was
overjoyed and infinitely grateful. So when it was suggested to Daniel that she
could make a business out of making the stubborn bugs disappear, the single mom
of three boys had a hunch she could be on to something.
A quick bit of research revealed few outfits in the entire country doing this.
"Everyone thought I was crazy to become the 'lice lady,'" Daniel
recollects. "But now I am the first person in a five-state area doing
this!" What she does is the work parents dread and feel ill-equipped to
do. And she does it in her signature blue jeans and western boots, befitting
the persona of the Lice Wrangler. Standing six foot two, she even brings her
own "check chair" to the job.
Daniel examines the head of each family member, then treats every person found
to have lice, putting them at ease as she patiently works through their hair
and chats them up with equal parts conversation and information. She uses an
enzyme-based product that breaks down the protein of the pest and releases the
"glue" on the nits. Daniel contends that this natural formula is much
safer than over-the-counter products that can only be used safely once a month
due to their toxicity. "I have a friend who works in agriculture, and he
makes his employees wear gloves when applying the same pesticides present in
these products," she reports. "And I'm supposed to put this on my
And, yet, Daniel tells her clients that a total lice wipe-out is a
"process-based, not a product-based, solution." She is currently
putting the finishing touches on a do-it-yourself kit for those parents still
wanting to take matters into their own hands. The patent-pending package
contains not only the natural solution and a special comb, but a flip card with
very specific step-by-step instructions, which she contends is the key missing
ingredient in other products.
Daniel's kit will be available in the coming weeks for under $90; her
house-call service is $85 for the first hour, then a charge for increments of
15 minutes thereafter. Either option is dwarfed by the average $600 spent by
clients prior to retaining the Wrangler or her handy DIY package.
Dr. Nordby recognizes such alternatives as a good thing, too, stating,
"Over-the-counter lice medications have produced much resistance in lice
populations in recent years, and they're minimally effective nowadays."
She does approve of prescription products, such as Ovide or Sklice, for her
patients, citing their reliable effectiveness and ease of use.
And as for "Caps for a Cause," shared combs on picture day, and the
rotation of the class birthday hat? The Big Red Book states that "combs,
hair brushes, hats, and hair ornaments can
transmit head lice, but away from the scalp, lice do not remain viable."
Still, Dr. Nordby isn't a fan of taking any chances, and has urged her kids'
teachers to discontinue use of headphones since there's a possibility they
could contribute to the spread of lice.
Her son's fellow-third grader, a boy, found himself in the hot seat at the
school nurse's office just before the holidays. But it seems the kids are less
panicked about lice than parents, and have largely shaken any stigma attached
to having them. Upon returning to class, the boy simply shrugged and stately
matter-of-factly, "Turns out I have lice." Surely, he knows it could
have been worse. He could have had... Congress. Shudder.
Learn more about Jewel Daniel's products and services at www.licewranglers.net,
or contact Jewel the Lice Wrangler at 843-926-4795.
Larry the Louse, the official mascot of Lice Wranglers.
Q&A with the Lice Wrangler
Q: What do lice look like?
A: Adult lice: A large one is about the size of the end of a sharpened pencil. Adults have clear bodies with brown-black in the center, but can also be red. Nits: They are typically found within a half-inch from the scalp to one side of the hair shaft. Nits are creamy white to brown-black, and feel like a grain of sand that can’t be moved without getting a fingernail involved.
Q: Will one treatment do the trick?
A: The first treatment should take about two hours per head. For six days following the initial treatment, a 20-minute comb-out is recommended every other night. At the end of the week, do a second full treatment.
Q: What about lice on household items?
A: The bugs are not meant to cling to anything but hair, so a good vacuum of furniture should suffice. Linens can go in a hot dryer for 30 minutes, and toys, combs, and other small items can be frozen for six hours.
Q: In a pinch, is there a natural household item I could use as a treatment?
A: Olive oil – not mayonnaise as widely believed – is a decent short-term alternative. It will not kill the lice, it just slows them down and makes them much easier to remove.