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DERMATOPATHOLOGICAL INSTITUTE

DR. PABLO UMBERT

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LICE

What is it?

Lice are parasitic insects that live on people’s head and feed from their blood. Lice are highly contagious and can be transmitted by close contact with others or by sharing personal effects (hats, towels, hair brushes). It is more common in children between 3-11 years old and their families. Personal hygiene has no relation to the appearance of lice.

The adult lice is about the size of a sesame seed and is dark brown in color. The female lives for 3-4 weeks and lays about 6 eggs (nits) per day. Nits are even smaller, similar to a flake of dandruff and are very attached to the hair. At 7 days the nits born from the eggs have the appearance of a small adult. Lice and nits are easier to detect in the neck and behind the ears.

Symptoms

The first symptom is usually a tingling sensation on the scalp, followed by frequent itching and irritation caused by scratching. Even scabs, dermatitis lesions or swollen glands may appear on the back of the neck.

Diagnosis

Your dermatologist can diagnose it clinically by examining your hair. A dermatoscope or microscope may be used to find the insects and provide a diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment consists of treating the patient and its family members who might also be infected, to avoid reinfection.

  • Physical methods: Manual removal of lice and nits with a special comb (nit), along with a haircut that facilitates the detection and removal of lice. This can be especially useful in very young children.
  • Chemical methods: Shampoos and lotions containing permethrin, lindane, malathion, crotamiton, benzyl benzoate or ivermectin.. An alternative would be the use of lotions with dimethicone, a type of silicone that "chokes" the lice and nits.
  • In severe or recurrent cases, an anti parasitic pill may be prescribed (Ivermectin) which is taken orally.

Because of the cycle of lice, an additional treatment will be required after one week, to ensure the elimination of the nits that might have survived.

Doctor Pablo Umbert

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