The Scourge of Our Scalps

Nits: The Scourge of Our Scalps

They are the subject of many tears and tantrums across homes in Britain, and lice, mites and nits are now at epidemic proportions in this country, with more than 60 percent of all children aged between eight and 15 years becoming infected at least once a year with head lice.

Nits have been around a long time in Britain and it is only in Australia, New Zealand and Britain where we have given the head louse this term. But it is no term of endearment, more a scourge of our head with the eggs hatching on the tiny strands of our heads and the louse biting through our scalp and feeding on our blood.

The term “nit” means the egg without the embryo, or basically a dead egg. Head lice are insects that do not fly but tend to live all of their lives nesting into our scalps and feeding off our blood. They tend to affect children at school more than any other section of the community, because of the close proximity in which the kids interact with each other throughout the day.

It is the most talked about subject regarding health next to the common cold in the playgrounds and school gates where parents gather to collect their children at the end of the school day. Every time science brings out a chemical hair rinse to destroy the nits they seem to build up a resistance to it over time.

If you want to see the back of those pesky nits you need to understand more about them and how their life cycle works. The eggs (or “nits”) take about a week to hatch and the infant louse will take just two weeks to grow into a fully grown adult louse. When it becomes an adult it will automatically go searching for a mate. Then a day later the female lays the eggs, and the next day will lay some more, and then some more the day after that.

Amazingly once the female has sperm inside her she does not need to seek a mate again and she can use this sperm to hatch over and over again. To get rid of nits effectively you must get rid of the live lice as well. If you don’t, you’ll find nits (dead eggs) will reappear after a couple of weeks. Nits have to be combed out using a fine toothed brush and the shampoo you use to get rid of the lice must be reapplied two weeks later, so you are getting rid of any newly hatched eggs in your hair.