Lice in children: how do they feed and reproduce?

Lice in children: how do they feed and reproduce?

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Lice are parasites that live on people's heads and are very common. They predominantly affect children between 3 and 10 years old and their relatives, since they are easily infected. Girls are affected more often than boys, because they tend to have longer hair.

The most common symptom of infestation by Human pedicles or lice is itching or itchy scalp. The itching is due to irritation of the skin produced by saliva (which contains an anticoagulant toxin), which the insect deposits in the micro-wound of the bite itself. Scratching often causes erosions in the skin, which further accentuates the itching and can facilitate the transmission of diseases in cases where the lice are infected. The sting gives rise to a small reddish papule, which is quite itchy. This irritation, aggravated by scratching, can lead to dermatitis which, in turn, carries a risk of secondary bacterial superinfection.

Unlike what it may seem, lice they don't jump or fly because they don't have wings, but they move very quickly. Its average speed reaches 23 centimeters per minute, under normal conditions. They walk through the hair clinging firmly to it with 3 pairs of short legs. Its body is flattened and its color is white in origin, although once the louse is full of blood, its color changes and it becomes gray, brown or black.

An adult louse is usually between 2 and 4 millimeters long. Its abdomen is wider than the rest of its body and it breathes through holes that can be closed and become impermeable to water. For this reason, lice survive in the water and they can be spread during swimming in a pool. They have the ability to hold in apnea for about five minutes. These openings also have an excretory function. Their head has short antennae and highly specialized mouthparts, which allow the head louse to carry out piercing and sucking actions on its host's blood.

Lice are blood-sucking insects, a kind of 'microscopic vampires', that feed on human blood and are very foodies. They prefer some people more than others according to the composition of their blood. Some studies suggest that certain foods or medications that alter the smell or taste of the blood may cause rejection. Thus, for example, eating garlic can help prevent infestation, although it is something that could not be conclusively verified or corroborated.

Its diet consists exclusively of the blood of its host. To feed, lice bite 2 to 4 times a day during meals, which last about 30 minutes. Away from their host, head lice cannot survive more than 48 hours, as they starve or dehydrate.

In addition to feeding regularly with blood, they need the conditions of climate and humidity necessary for their survival, which are very strict: temperature between 28 and 32 ºC with 70 to 80 percent humidity. The optimum temperature for rapid growth oscillates around 28º C. They do not support temperatures above 45 ºC. Below 27 ºC growth slows down, while below 12 ºC growth and egg laying stop. Usually, they are quite sensitive to temperature and, in case of fever of the host, they can abandon him.

Marisol New.

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Video: Head Lice - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options (August 2022).