Have you ever felt an itching, crawling sensation in your hair? The kind that made your skin crawl as you think about the possibilities of what it might be? If you didn’t think it could be head lice, maybe you should think again.
Head lice is common in young children, but it can still affect people of all ages, especially those living in close quarters, such as campus dorms.
To better understand this tiny parasite, we sat down with GC Health Services to see how lice has affected the GC campus and to get tips on prevention and what to do if you think you have it. Beware—things might get itchy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the head louse, or Pediculus humanus capitis, is a parasitic insect that can be found on the heads of its victims.
Lice feed on human blood throughout the day and night and stay close to the scalp. Luckily, they are not known to spread disease.
There are an estimated six to 12 million reported cases of head lice in the U.S. every year.
Common symptoms of head lice include a tickling feeling from something moving in your hair, irritability from not being able to sleep since lice are most active at night and itching caused by allergic reactions from the bites.
If you suspect you have head lice, please contact GC Health Services.
“When someone is diagnosed with lice, we will typically have them notify anyone they live with or are in close contact with so that we may evaluate them if they are a student,” said Britt McRae, director of Student Health Services. “If not, they are encouraged to go to their family doctor for evaluation.”
The best treatment for active head lice is to use a special over the-counter medicinal shampoo, which will kill them, and then comb through the hair to pick out the lice. Follow the directions on the box to ensure proper use. If after eight to 12 hours there are still moving lice, retreatment might be necessary.
Head lice eggs, often called nits, are more difficult to see as they are very small. Most head lice treatments come with a comb that can be used to help remove them.
Additionally, bed sheets, pillow cases and clothing should be washed in hot water and dried on high heat, and carpets should be vacuumed to help stop the spread of lice.
The most common time of the year for these cases to be reported at GC are after holidays and breaks when students leave campus.
“At GC, we see about five active cases [of lice] per academic year,” McRae said. “Student Health has only had one diagnosed case of active lice so far this year.”
Realizing you have head lice can be embarrassing and scary, but it’s important to remember it is a medical condition like any other.
“As college students, we don’t hear about head lice like we did as kids, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen,” said sophomore Kaitie Rau a pre-nursing major. “Students should feel comfortable enough to ask for help, so it doesn’t spread to others.”