Can Head Lice and Parasites Cause Hair Loss?
One of the leading causes of hair loss and damage to the hair is infestation by parasites. It's an unpleasant subject and one most people don't like to talk about, but the good news is that parasite problems are usually quite treatable and your hair should grow back normally afterwards.
Picking up hair parasites is easy to do. The most common route of transmission is by head to head contact, which is why school children are more vulnerable to getting head lice. However, adults can carry them, too, and they can survive on clothes, towels and soft furnishings. Hair parasites actually prefer to live in clean hair and on clean skin, so contracting them doesn't mean you have poor hygiene.
For most people, infestation with hair parasites is just a nuisance, causing itching. Because immune systems respond differently, however, it can cause some people to lose a lot of their hair. Excessive scratching can also lead to this, and can be difficult to control, as you may do it in your sleep. Fortunately, there are solutions.
Types of Hair ParasitesThe most common type of parasites that infest the hair are head lice. They live in the hair, lay eggs against the roots, and breed very fast, leading to rapid infestation. They feed on blood drawn out of the scalp. In order to keep incisions open while they drink, they exude a chemical that irritates the skin, causing itching and sometimes allergic reactions that lead to hair loss.
Lice can also cause hair loss because their eggs are sticky and can only be removed from the hair by combing. This can cause hairs to get ripped out at the roots, and it can be a problem even with dead eggs long after the lice themselves are gone. When you comb infested hair, put a little olive oil on your comb before each stroke. You may not get all the eggs out at once, but you'll do less damage.
Many hair problems are caused by mites that burrow into follicles and feed on the oils the body produces to lubricate hair. Although they don't attack the body or hair directly, they can block the follicles, stopping vital nutrients reaching the root and even leading to bacterial infection. Some people also suffer from allergies to them. Any of these problems can lead to hair loss.
Hair loss problems can also be caused by fleas, which you can pick up from your pets and which sometimes settle on the scalp. Some people are allergic to the fleas, causing dermatitis and damage to hair follicles. The best way to tackle this is to get your pets treated straight away and use flea powder to get rid of any remaining fleas in your house. Pet fleas are unlikely to breed on you.
Getting Rid of Hair ParasitesWhatever type of hair parasite you're dealing with, ease of transmission means that it's important to treat your whole household at once, along with anybody else you have close physical contact with. Some schools advise that children with head lice should be kept at home until the problem has been solved, so if you have affected children, phone their head teacher or school nurse for advice.
When treating your household, you should wash all towels and bedding and any clothes you have worn in the past few days. Items that can't be washed above 40ºC, but that may be infested, such as hairbrushes, should be placed inside plastic bags and left in your freezer for 24 hours.
Traditional treatments for lice and mites involve suffocating them with oils. You can buy special oil preparations for this or you can use standard hair oils or olive oil, but you must rub the oil in thoroughly, massage it along the full length of the hair, and leave it in for 24 hours. If treating lice, you must repeat the treatment after 10 days, when remaining eggs will have hatched – only the adult parasites are vulnerable.
Though it's the gentlest of treatment and the best option for people suffering from allergies, oil treatment doesn't always work. If you have ongoing problems, other treatments are available and are usually be effective. Ask your pharmacist for advice on the best treatment for you.
It seems unfair, but even people who are mostly bald already can still get hair parasites. With patience and care, however, you can eradicate them and make a full recovery.