A little history of Human Lice
and a few facts
Excerpts from Steve Tvedten's book "The Best Control"
(Used here with permission.)

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Three Types of Human Lice

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.

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

(Web Mistress Note:  A little license was taken with title and some emphasis.  However, the content is correct as it appears in "The Best Control)