What are Nits?
Nits are tiny, oval-shaped, yellowish-white eggs produced by lice. They are difficult to see and look like dandruff flakes. Lice feed off the blood in the skin and deposit their eggs or nits on the hair shafts or along the lining of clothing. Nits take about one week to hatch and multiply quickly, becoming very contagious. They attach themselves to the hair shaft, sticking strongly to the hair and making it difficult to brush off.
Anyone may be affected with nits, but it is more common amongst children aged between 3 and 12 years. It affects girls more than boys because their hair is usually longer.
Symptoms and signs
The most common symptoms and signs of head lice include:
- Frequent itching and scratching of the hair
- Sores or small, red bumps on the scalp, behind the ears, at the nape of the neck and shoulders
What Causes Nits?
Nits are spread through direct contact from person to person, for example head-to-head contact. They can also be transferred indirectly by sharing personal items such as towels, brushes, combs, pillows or hats that are infested with nits. Nits can also spread rapidly when clothing items such as coats, scarves or caps are stored closely together, particularly in a home or school environment.
Help for Nits
Over-the-counter and prescription anti-nit and lice treatments such as shampoos, lotions and special fine-toothed combs are available to eliminate nits. These products are actually insecticides that contain harsh chemicals. Insecticides are available either in alcohol or water bases. If you suffer from allergies, eczema, or asthma, are pregnant or nursing, it is generally recommended that you use a water-based insecticide, as it is safer.
Wet-combing also helps to remove nits by using a fine-toothed comb. Hair should be wet and combed in sections from root to tip. Check the comb for nits after each stroke or comb the hair over a bowl of water or white tissue paper. It is recommended that wet-combing be done every three days for at least two weeks as a safety precaution.
More and more parents are choosing natural remedies as a safer, gentler treatment option for nits and lice. Most anti-lice treatments contain toxic chemicals with some harmful side effects. However, there are many plants in nature that manage to ward off insects and parasites naturally!
Herbal ingredients such as Azadirachta indica (Neem), Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) and Lavender have natural insecticidal, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties while also promoting healthy hair growth. These herbs together with aromatherapeutic ingredients such as Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree Oil) and Pelargonium Graveolens (Rose Geranium) prevent re-infestation and help to loosen up nits.
More Information on Nits
Tips to prevent nits
There are a number of ways to prevent exposure to nit or lice infestation and these include:
- Educate your child about how nits and lice are spread
- Check all family members for nits or lice
- Tell your child to avoid head-to-head contact with other children
- Avoid sharing personal belongings such as hair accessories, towels, hats, caps or scarves
- Wash all clothing, bed linen and towels in hot water and dry on a high heat
- Soak hair items such as brushes, combs, barrettes and hair bands in boiling water with disinfectant
- Vacuum your carpets, upholstered furniture, mattresses, car interior, child’s car seat, and stuffed toys to remove lice
- Have items that cannot be washed, dry-cleaned
- Avoid storing coats or hats with those belonging to other children – this usually happens at daycare centers and schools
- Encourage your child not to lie on bed linen and pillows that have been used by others with lice – this happens quite often at sleepovers or slumber parties