Are you having a lousy time?

All about Lice, where they came from, why they love you,
how to get rid of them, and the dangers of current treatment methods.
Chapter 16 from Steve Tvedten's book "The Best Control"
(Used here with permission.)


Three Types of Human Lice

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The head louse (Pediculus humanus capitas) (DeGeer), the body louse(Pediculus humanus humanus) (Linnaeus) and the crab louse (Pthirus pubis) (Linnaeus) all occur on humans. All three cause considerable skin irritation as they feed on human blood or crawl on the body. Typhus, impetigo, trench fever and relapsing fever have all been transmitted by body and head lice. Scratching can lead to secondary bacterial infections leaving children feeling achy, feverish and/or lethargic. Human lice can establish and maintain themselves only on humans. A louse cannot hop or jump. They can, however, crawl fast. They are usually transmitted only through close personal contact. They are less frequently transmitted through the sharing of personal articles or toilet seats. For head lice, this includes combs, brushes and other grooming aids, hats, headbands, helmets, caps, headrests, wigs, curlers or other headgear, especially when these items are stored in shared lockers. They spread or infest by crawling, they live by biting and sucking blood from the scalp and can survive for up to 48 hours off a human head, and the nits on a hair shaft can survive from 4 - 10 days - so vacuum thoroughly and/or spray/clean with Kleen Kill® diluted enzyme cleaners or peppermint soaps. Head lice infestations have been a problem a long time - Pliny, a Greek naturalist (23-79 AD) suggested bathing in viper broth. Montezuma paid people to pick nits off his subjects, dried them and then saved them in his treasury. W. Coles in his 1657 book Adam in Eden: or Nature's Paradise noted that the oil from hyssop (Hyssopus) "killeth lice." Nicholas Culpeper in his 1681 The English Physician Enlarged recommended tobacco juice to kill lice on children's heads, a very early reference to the use of tobacco as an insecticide poison. Medical historians trace head lice infestations back 9,000 years! In the U. S. head lice are not "known" to spread disease or cause serious injury - they are only considered to be "repugnant". Like other U. S. public health agencies, the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention have never tracked head lice outbreaks, said official, Tom Skinner. Sometimes called "mechanized dandruff." Head lice may be nasty, itchy and very contagious, but the poisons sold to get rid of lice are even worse. Among the reactions to poison shampoo or lice "treatments" are seizures, mental retardation, many different allergies and respiratory problems, strange tingling, burning, itching, attention deficit disorders, brain tumors, leukemia, cancer and death. We do not suggest the use of poisons to control lice.

Head lice and body lice, which are different forms (subspecies) of Pediculus humanus, are very similar in appearance. Lice are wingless insects whose legs have claws that grip and hold onto hair shafts. Their abdomens are distinctly longer than they are wide. Their color, which varies from dirty-white to rust to grayish-black, usually approaches the hair color of the host. Head lice almost always occur on the head where they attach their eggs (nits) to the hair; body lice prefer to live in the seams and linings of unwashed clothing, blankets and sheets from which they periodically crawl onto the skin to feed. Although body lice usually deposit their nits on unwashed clothing fibers, the nits are sometimes found on body hair as well.

Crab lice live only on the hairy portions of the body. Their legs are adapted to grasp hairs which are rather widely spaced, and for this reason, these lice prefer the pubic and perianal regions.

Female head lice produce from 50 to 150 eggs (6 to 10 nits per day) which they usually attach to hair behind the ears, on the nape of the neck and occasionally to other body hairs. Nits may also be found in sports headgear, hats, combs, barrettes, scarves, brushes, etc. and other common means of infecting a host. The incidence of infestation is greater among persons with long or dense hair, particularly when regular and thorough grooming and washing is neglected. The eggs hatch in 5 to 10 days, and the young, which resemble the adults except for size, mature in 8 to 22 days during which time they undergo three skin molts to allow for their ever increasing body growth. Adults normally live only about 3 weeks or more, depending upon conditions. They do not resist starvation well - at 75o F. all head lice die after 55 hours without a blood meal.

HUMAN LICE - Three species of lice feed on man and both males and females (immatures and adults) require blood meals to complete their development. The antennae have no more than 5 segments; the head is narrower than the thorax and the thoracic segments are fused with the abdomen. The head louse or "cootie" is bluish-gray to whitish, wingless, up to 1/8" long, usually found among the hairs of the scalp. The eggs, or nits, are attached to hairs close to the skin. The body louse is similar to the head louse but is found mainly in seams of clothing, worn close to the body. Body louse eggs or nits are attached to unwashed clothing. The crab louse is a short, broad, thick-legged insect about 1/5" long is normally found in the crotch or arm pit or other body areas with pubic hair. The eggs or nits are also attached to these pubic hairs. Except for the common cold, head lice infestation is a more common infestation than all the other childhood communicable conditions combined (6 - 20 million people become infested each year with a treatment cost of approximately $367 million dollars and untold contamination problems). All three lice suck human blood and are not found on birds, dogs, cats, farm animals or other hosts. The Spring, 1996 issue of the National Pediculosis Association's (NPA) Progress noted that for the past year the NPA has been averaging 50 calls a day reporting commercial product treatment failure - in spite of this - the continued use of these toxins - dog flea and tick shampoos, lice sprays, kerosene and/or other dangerous alternatives including Lindane are (still) being used repeatedly. Lindane was the cause of at least 70% of the reported serious health reactions to lice poison shampoos. Lindane is described by its Manufacturer as a powerful contact and internal poison. Lindane has been banned in 18 countries and severely restricted in 10 others. The FDA recommends lindane only be used where other treatments are ineffective. The majority of treatment failures involved Nix® and Rid®. Children still have live lice right after the poison shampoo. In thousands of uses Not Nice to Lice® has controlled resistant lice/nits safely.

Historically, the disease typhus, with the causal agent, Rickettsia prowazekii, is transmitted by body and head lice, was common where people were confined together and could not wash or delouse their clothing. This disease became epidemic within confined populations such as cities under siege or armies limited to trenches or on the move and unable to simply wash and, thereby, delouse their clothes. Typhus is a fatal disease and was so pervasive it, more than wounds of war, determined who was victorious and who was defeated in wartime. Widespread louse epidemics actually ceased being a problem when DDT dust became available in World War II. Although body lice quickly became resistant to DDT when it was intensively and repeatedly used, other synthetic pesticide poisons were then tried. (Typhus epidemics are not known to be caused by crab louse infestations.) Even with the elimination of the large scale lice infestations, people are still puzzled and alarmed when small, persistent louse outbreaks occur. Common examples of small infestations are head louse infestations among elementary school aged children, body louse infestations on people who are unable to care for themselves, and pubic louse infestations resulting from sexual intercourse with an infested partner. Try washing with Not-Nice-to-Lice® shampoo, Kleen Kill® enzyme cleaners and/or peppermint soap or neem soaps preferably with enzymes, combs and saunas, or even borax, before using any synthetic poison shampoos. Neem extracts will also eliminate human lice. Caution: Before you apply any synthetic pesticide poison shampoos to people, first try a sauna (if your doctor permits) and/or wash the infested area with Not Nice to Lice® natural enzyme shampoo; then comb out all nits with a metal lice or flea comb; allow wet enzymes to remain on the infested area and work for 10 - 15 minutes or until you feel the nits loosen and pull away from the hair shaft; thoroughly rinse and apply a good conditioner. If any nits remain, apply baby oil to hair and let soak overnight under a shower cap. Comb out remaining nits with a metal nit or flea comb. Repeat treatment(s) if necessary. You can be very helpful as a consultant on louse infestations and can provide a great service by discouraging any pediculicidal (poison) use other than as a last resort. Leaving decisions on pediculicide choices with parents, school medical personnel, physicians, or the infested individual strengthens everyone's confidence in the your technical understanding and discourages the application or spraying of any dangerous, volatile, synthetic pesticide poisons. However, it is not morally wrong to try to convince people to first try Intelligent Pest Management® nontoxic (personal) controls before using dangerous/useless poisons. Especially when entire families are washing everyone's hair with these poisons "just to be sure" they do not get a head louse infestation. Would you give everyone in your family penicillin as a "preventative" so they won't get strep throat? Note: Pyrethrum- or permethrin-based pediculicides should not be used by persons with asthma or that are sensitive to ragweed, should not be inhaled or swallowed or used near the eyes or allowed to come in contact with mucous membranes, e.g., the eyes, nose or mouth . Lindane has been identified as both neurotoxic and carcinogenic and is already banned in 18 nations around the world. No pediculicide poison should be used on infants, pregnant women or nursing mothers or on cut or abraded scalps. No poison should ever be used to "treat" lice twice if it failed the first time, clearly indicating the lice may, at the very least, be resistant or immune to that particular product/poison. There are no poisons in the Pestisafe® Not Nice to Lice® shampoo, Kleen Kill® enzyme cleaners or Kleen Kill® peppermint soap.

Head Lice
Pedicululus humanus var capitis

Adult - Head lice spread easily and infestations often occur at all social and economic levels, especially among school children who are in close daily contact. At least 10 million children are infected each year. Infestations are called pediculosis, which is a communicable disease. They vary in color from dirty white to reddish-brown to rust to grayish black in color. If the nymphal stages are passed on a person of blonde or light coloration, the adult louse is light in color, but if they are passed on a person of dark hair coloring, then the resulting wingless adult is more pronounced in coloration. They are small - about the size of a sesame seed. They need a warm, moist habitat. They spread by crawling. They live by biting and sucking blood from the scalp and can not survive for more than 2 days unless they are on the human head. Head lice aren't nice.

Egg - Eggs or nits (that look like tiny white or tan dots) are usually laid by the female close to the base of the hair near the scalp and they are firmly cemented to the hair. The eggs (and the empty shell) are known as nits and are always oval- or tear-shaped, and are glued at an angle to the side of the hair shaft. They are usually tan when alive and pearly or grayish white in color after dying. The nits usually occur near the scalp (clustered in groups), but can often be found nestled behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. The hatched egg is easily identified by its opalescent and translucent appearance. Just before hatching the eyes and other structures of the embryo can be made out through the translucent shell. On hatching, the top of the egg opens like a lid. Live nits may be occasionally found anywhere on the hair shaft, but normally they are found near the scalp and they are "super-glued" on and do not flake off like dandruff. They are so hard to remove we invented the term "nitpicking" to describe the difficulty. One louse can lay 150 nits a month (normal lifetime). They hatch in about 10 days, depending on the climate. Nits need at least 82o F.; and 70% humidity to incubate. During the incubation time the respiratory passages of the louse shut whenever the nits are immersed in water and they can survive under water for over 24 hours.

Nymphal stages - There are three nymphal stages, all of which resemble the adult except in size and possession of sexual organs, but they do have some change in color. During the first stage the nymph is a pale straw color and has no central nervous system (CNS) and, therefore, can not be killed using volatile, synthetic pesticide neurotoxins or by poisons that attack the CNS. The poisons and the "inerts" in these volatile pesti cides can and do, however, attack your CNS! The gut of the nymph is clearly visible through the almost translucent cuticle, and when the first-stage nymphs have taken a meal of blood they are shining red in color, like rubies. Afterwards the blood darkens and thereafter the gut appears purplish-black. The young nymph is able to feed almost immediately after emergence and after this feeds regularly, at least twice daily. The nymphs and adults feed by pressing the front of their heads against the skin of their hosts; a series of curved teeth around their mouths then fasten on to the skin and the piercing stylets are released from a pouch where they are normally invisible, to pierce the skin. Saliva from the salivary glands lubricates the stylets and they begin to feed on you. Kleen Kill® enzymes create an extra "molt" they weren't anticipating and will quickly destroy live lice and help remove nits/glue. Lice can not become resistant (immune) to Pestisafes®, e.g., Kleen Kill® enzymes and/or soaps or Not Nice to Lice® shampoos or borax or heat.

Length of life cycle - The egg hatches within 8 - 9 days and the nymphal stages take approximately the same length of time. The life cycle takes place, therefore, every 18 days. The length of the adult stage in the male is about 10 days and in the female can vary from 9 - 22 days. A maximum of about 6 to 10 nits/eggs are laid each day by each female and the maximum hatch rate has been found to be 88%. All lice feed on blood every 3 - 6 hours and can only survive about 20 - 48 hours without a blood meal. Nits are the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

Pediculus humanus capitus (DeGeer) - Adult head lice are gray and about 1/8 inch long about the size of a sesame seed. They often have a tiny dot on their backs. They thrive only on human hair and scalps. Hatching occurs about one week after attachment. Since lice go through a gradual/simple metamorphosis, the tiny nymphs resemble adults. They grow to maturity in about 10 days. Adult lice mate and the female can lay about 50-150 eggs, but often falls short of that in her life of only several weeks. Wetting the hair and rubbing the scalp with a towel irritates the adult lice and makes them move about, aiding in their detection. You may wish to simply shave off the hair and thus remove the infestation, or you may soak the hair with baby oil until you feel the nits "move" or loosen and then use a lice comb and then shampoo, or sauna and/or wash your hair with Not Nice to Lice® , Kleen Kill ® enzyme cleaners, Kleen Kill® peppermint or neem soap and/or borax laundry powder before trying anything more toxic. Wash your hair with Not Nice to Lice® shampoo; leave on for 10 - 15 minutes or until you feel the nits move, then rinse (comb with a metal lice or flea comb if you wish) then use a good hair conditioner. Then go to your public health practitioners for an examination. In the United States, lice live in the head hair of pre-schoolers and of children of elementary school age (only rarely on adolescents or adults). This could simply be because little children hate having their hair shampooed with soap. Lice scuttle about on the scalp between hairs with much more speed than expected of a small, soft, wingless insect with slender hair grasping claws on the end of blunt legs. They are very sensitive to dry heat, so we advise saunas and/or hair dryers rather than poison head/hair treatments. They are sensitive to oil, so we also advise adding a conditioner and/or soaking the hair with olive, coconut or baby oil to kill the lice and help remove the nits. Pestisafes® such as Kleen Kill® peppermint soap is simply pure castile soap with peppermint oil; castile soap is basically water, potassium soaps of olive, coconut and tall oils, etc. - all things to which they are sensitive.

Close adaptation locks head lice into the human scalp in several ways. First, louse claws grasp human hair so firmly that they do not fall or wander out of it and yet they can crawl fast. Second, head lice suck blood by grasping the scalp with tiny hooks that surround their mouth, and painlessly pierce the skin with slender stylets. (Head lice feed several times a day but do not engorge themselves.) Most importantly, head lice neatly glue their eggs (called nits) to the hair shaft, usually within 1/4 inch of the scalp. The tiny, pearl-like eggs (they look like miniature wax tear drops) stick alongside the hair so tightly that they can be dislodged only by being torn from their neat sleeve of biological glue by fingernails or a metal lice comb or enzyme cleaners. Usually nits found further away from the scalp than 1 /2 inch will have already hatched; what is found is the empty shell which remains attached. The easiest way to remove cemented eggs is to cut them out or try to soak the hair in vinegar or baby oil or in Kleen Kill® enzymes for 10 - 60 minutes; them comb out with a metal nit or flea comb. How head lice are spread from child to child other than crawling is not well known, but they do not jump off or freely wander onto coat collars or hats, since they are restricted to humans with a scalp surface temperature of around 80o F. or a little more, but head-to-head contact and sharing of clothing, hair ornaments and grooming materials are thought to be the normal routes of invasion. Temperature preference and perhaps humidity is so critical that lice easily die at elevated temperatures and from excess perspiration - so sauna! Conversely, at lower surface temperatures (about 50o F.) lice become torpid and do not move or feed. A reasonable speculation is that head louse nymphs hatch from nits on hair shafts snatched by brushes and deposited on knit hats. The tiny nymphs then move toward the warmth of the next head covered by the cap or brushed by the brush. This normally limits transmission to siblings that have their hair brushed with a "family brush" or children who share knit hats or hair brushes of friends. Get your own brush and cap and become "selfish".

Louse infestations are often discovered by school teachers who are watching for the signs of itching heads and/or frequent scratching, but classroom neighbors are not as likely to be infested as are brothers and sisters or close friends that sleep over with head-to-head contact or share combs and hair brushes and/or head gear. (American) head lice have been shown by surveys in several large eastern cities to infest the heads of Caucasian and oriental children but they very seldom infest those of African Americans (whose hair may be more oily and flattened). If you are using Kleen Kill® enzymes - wash your hair again in 5 - 10 days with the same protocol, if necessary. Be sure not to confuse nits with hair debris such as irregularly-shaped clumps of dandruff stuck to the hair shaft or elongated segments of dandruff encircling the hair shaft - that are easily dislodged. You have to get rid of all the nits on the hair shafts to prevent a reinfestation; use a bright light, a magnifying glass and metal (nit/flea) comb.

Head Louse Control - Be sure you really have head lice - Try nontoxic controls first, e.g., Not Nice to Lice® enzyme shampoo. Remember, virtually any soap shampoo will quickly control the lice. The real control problems are the nits that remain on the hair shaft (even if no longer on the head) and can hatch and "reinfest" for up to 10 days later, so soak your head with olive oil or baby oil overnight and cover with a shower cap; then use a metal nit comb and then shampoo with a conditioner in the a.m. or simply wash your hair with Not Nice to Lice® Shampoo and Nit Remover, for 10 minutes or until the nits pull away and then rinse off the enzymes, lice and nits. When combing out nits, work with small sections (1" or smaller) of hair. Keep the metal comb's teeth deep into the hair from the scalp to the end of the hair. Clean your louse comb after each stroke in Kleen Kill® enzyme or hot soapy water. Keep the hair moist (use a spray bottle of diluted enzymes). Adding baby or olive oil and/or a conditioner may make the combing of nits out of the hair easier. Only after trying all of the alternatives, and then only as a last resort, there are several over-the-counter poison preparations that can be used to try to eliminate louse infestations, but we believe they are all equally ineffective and dangerous even when used according to label directions. Look at your over-the-counter head lice shampoo warnings and ingredients very closely. The Rid® 0.5% permethrin spray says, "THIS PRODUCT IS NOT FOR USE ON HUMANS OR ANIMALS. Avoid breathing spray mist. Avoid contact with skin. Use only in well ventilated areas. Avoid spraying in eyes. In case of contact wash immediately with soap and water. Vacate room after treatment and ventilate before re-occupying." The Nix 1% permethrin shampoo (which is twice as strong) says leave on the (child's) hair for 10 minutes but no longer and notes, "This product may cause breathing difficulty or an asthmatic episode in susceptible persons, etc." The 1995 Physician's Desk Reference notes that in all 3 mouse studies there was an increased increased incidence of pulmonary alveolar - cell carcinomas and benign liver adenomas in female mice at a concentration of 5000 ppm of the active ingredient permethrin in their food. This shampoo also has several interesting "inert" ingredients including isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol, etc. The propylene glycol MSDS says, "Avoid skin contact"; it is used in industry as antifreeze, airplane de-icer and brake fluid. It can cause skin irritation, dermatitis, erythematous plaques, CNS depression, stupor, seizures, nausea, stinging, irritation, redness, etc. The isopropyl alcohol MSDS notes it can enter into people through inhalation, skin and/or ingestion and may cause irritation to eyes and to the respiratory tract, is an anesthetic and may also cause CNS depression. Both MSDS sheets for these "inerts" require respirators or air supplied masks in confined areas and goggles and protective gloves! Propylene glycol suggests impervious clothing and equipment! The California Department of Health Sciences warned in a 1996 report there is "circumstantial evidence" of increased head lice resistance to poisons. School health workers all over the U. S. have been saying for years the pesticide poisons "registered" for scalp use were not working any more. Prescription poison preparations, e.g., lindane, may permanently harm the patient in the attempt to kill the eggs as well as live lice. The poison "cure", obviously, is far worse than the "disease".

We do not believe any of the over-the-counter poison preparations are safe or that they even control lice - recently some "health" directives, e.g., The Children's Hospital Oakland Highlight Nov. 1996 - also said these poisons do not work as directed and they have mislead people by saying you must leave these poisons on for 3 - 8 hours (under a shower cap)! See Chapter 13 and Chapter 1 on Permethrin as a poison. An Israeli study published in the British journal "Medical and Veterinary entomology" in 1995 noted that Israeli scientists blamed permethrin in particular for the head lice resistance they found. "The results suggest that resistance to pyrethroids has developed rapidly among head lice since permethrin was introduced (in Israel) in 1991." The first application supposedly kills all of the live lice. Viable nits hatch in 6 - 10 days and the second application supposedly kills that new population. These lousicides (poisons) are applied to wet hair and after a short waiting period they are shampooed out. (Remember, most researchers and health officials will tell you virtually any olive oil or soap shampoo, or peppermint soap or natural soap without these poisons will kill or wash away the lice, so simply wash your head with any shampoo daily for 2 weeks.) Advise family members they should first try hand removal with a metal nit or flea comb, a baby oil treatment, a sauna (if your doctor permits) and/or wash with natural soap, neem soap or Kleen Kill® peppermint soap, or with Kleen Kill® enzymes, or Not Nice to Lice® shampoo with enzyme cleaners, and a metal lice or metal flea comb and then rinse off and apply a hair conditioner. Repeat the same process in 10 days at least be careful to not get any Not Nice to Lice® shampoo with enzyme cleaners in the eyes - even natural soap burns the eyes.

Caution: 90% of all commercial soap shampoos use a detergent called sodium dodecylsulfate (SDS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and/or sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) that can be retained in tissues up to 5 days even after a single drop. Dr. Keith Green noted (SLS) causes improper eye development in children. SLS has a tendency to react with other ingredients to form NDELA, a nitrosamine and potent carcinogen. Researchers actually estimate the nitrate absorption of one soap shampoo is equal to eating a pound of bacon! The FDA has recently warned shampoo manufacturers of unacceptable levels of dioxin in products containing SLES. SLS is a skin irritant that can penetrate and impair the skin barrier. SLS can also enhance the allergic response to other toxins and allergens per "Dangerous Beauty" by David Lowell Kern. We do not advise their use.

Remember, decisions on the formulation/use of dangerous lousicide, treatment of head infections from extensive infestations, and so forth, are decisions that still should be made by parents and physicians. If you suspect a personal infestation, first try Not Nice to Lice®, baby oil, olive oil and/or sauna and/or daily shampoo with Not Nice to Lice®, borax, neem soap, Kleen Kill® peppermint soap, diluted Kleen Kill® enzyme cleaners or simply Prell and vinegar before going to the doctor. All reported louse infestations of adolescents and adults should then be investigated by a physician; if live lice are not seen, the nits (if any) should be examined through a microscope to verify that they are not symptoms of other scalp conditions. Spend most of your time vacuuming and working on the infested person - not on cleaning or spraying the area with toxic poisons. If you clean, thoroughly vacuum and then use Kleen Kill® diluted enzyme cleaners or Kleen Kill® peppermint soap. We do not recommend any volatile pesticide poisons. Caution: when the "normal" poison treatments don't work, some physicians prescribe stronger doses of permethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid, a 5% solution rather than the 1% in Nix®. But, if lice become resistant to the weaker solution, it is likely they will also resist the stronger dose (eventually) as well...and remember...the warning on the box of Rid® and/or Brite-Life® regarding "their" synthetic pyrethroid, "Not for use on humans or animals!" Some over-the-counter poison shampoos warn you not to put these poisons on scalps that have been cut or scratched, yet virtually everyone scratches their head when they are infested with head lice. If you want some interesting reading, read the MSDS for all of the unregistered, untested "inerts" in these poisons.

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For a list of acknowledgements, bibliography or references, contact:

NOTE: Not Nice To Lice ® Shampoo is not a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved or registered pediculicide (lice poison) in the U.S., so Ginesis Products is only marketing Not Nice To Lice® Shampoo as a cosmetic shampoo. Please note, however that the ingredients in Not Nice To Lice® are Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration and many other Government agencies.


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