ANOTHER outbreak? Head lice alert as Superdrug report 121 per cent surge in demand for


  • READ MORE: The BIGGEST head lice myths that everyone believes

Sales of head lice treatment spray have surged 121 per cent this week, suggesting a UK-wide outbreak of the bugs. 

High street chemist Superdrug believes the recent warmer weather has triggered infestations up and down the country.

However, the NHS said visits to its head lice advice page had remained steady at around 10,000 a week during April and May.

The common playground parasites are a perennial concern for parents who want to avoid the painful process of treating the family’s hair with strong-smelling chemicals and washing every bed sheet in the house.

Head lice are tiny insects that live in hair, laying their eggs on hairs near the scalp.

Lice can also be contracted by sharing tools such as brushes, combs or towels with someone with an infestation

Lice can also be contracted by sharing tools such as brushes, combs or towels with someone with an infestation

Adults can live for up to 30 days on your scalp

Adults can live for up to 30 days on your scalp

Head lice can affect anyone, however they are more common among children aged four to 12 years.

During the warmer summer months, there is greater opportunity for them to be transmitted from head-to-head as children play outside more often.

WHAT ARE HEAD LICE?

Head lice are tiny insects which live and lay their eggs in hair. Their empty egg cases which stick to hair are known as ‘nits’.

Lice, which can be treated by an over-the-counter medication, quickly multiply and can cause itching and inflammation of the scalp. 

In severe cases, infections can be caused when children scratch their head with dirty fingernails or if faecal matter from the lice gets into a scratch.

All people who come in contact with the infected person should also check if they have contracted the bug because it spreads easily.

Clothing, bedding and other products need to be laundered in high heat in order to kill the bugs.

If something can’t be washed, then it needs to be either dry cleaned or sealed in a bag for two weeks to help kill off the infestation. 

Niamh McMillan, Superdrug’s pharmacy superintendent, said: ‘We typically see a spike in our head lice treatment products around back to school season in September, so it’s unusual to see such a surge in sales last week.

‘It’s been a long winter for the UK and the recent warmer weather will have seen lots of children taking advantage of being able to play outside together, leading to a greater opportunity for head lice to be transmitted from head-to-head.

‘Despite head lice being able to thrive in all temperatures, more pleasant weather can trigger head lice infestations, which is what we’re seeing.

‘If you suspect your child has head lice then the first step is to inspect their head. You should only begin head lice treatment once you have spotted a lice in their hair. We’d recommend regularly checking your child’s head all your round.’

There are two main options for treating head lice infestations.

The most effective method is wet combing — gently pulling a fine-toothed comb through sections of wet hair, from roots to the end, wiping the comb after each stroke while checking for lice.

Alternatively, chemical head lice treatments can help kill head lice and eggs in the hair. They are usually applied liberally to hair and left for two minutes, before being washed out. 

Last year, a TikTok account revealed that as many as 20,000 of the tiny insects can be living on your head after one month if left untreated.

NHS England noticed a surge in visits to its head lice advice page last September, suggesting there had been an outbreak. 

Dame Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said at the time: ‘Head lice and nits are a common issue, especially among young children and families in close contact with one another.

‘Once detected, there is no need to consult a GP but treatment should begin immediately and all household members should be checked and treated to stop further spread.

‘The NHS head lice and nits advice page provides the latest advice to manage the condition and help keep any outbreaks of head lice and nits under control.’

The NHS advises washing hair with shampoo, smothering it with conditioner, then combing the whole head from root to tip with a fine-toothed comb available from pharmacists or online.

The process should be repeated every four days for two weeks to catch any newly-hatched head lice.



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