Pediculosis is more commonly referred to as a lice infestation. Lice are parasites that feed on warm-blooded animals. The term can be used to refer to an infestation occurring anywhere on the body. There are three types of infestations that affect humans: capitis, corporis and pubis.
Capitis is the most common type. and is a head lice infestation. It affects about 3% of U.S. school children and their families every year, and is a major concern.
The corporis type is also referred to as Vagabond’s disease. The lice involved in this infestation have the ability to lay their eggs in people’s clothing.
Pubis infestations primarily affect the pubic area, although the hair under the arms and the eyelashes can also be affected. The lice involved are different from the common head louse and also from the lice involved in Vagabond’s disease. They are smaller and nearly round and prefer areas where the hair is not as thick as it is on the head. In familiar terms, the infestation is referred to as crabs.
What are the causes of pediculosis?
The main symptom in all types is itching. The itching is not caused by the bite of the louse, but by the insect’s saliva which irritates the skin. This itching usually becomes more intense in the three to four weeks following the infestation. The bites are rarely visible, except upon very close inspection.
Sores may form due to excessive scratching and the sores can become infected. This is the only complication associated with head lice and crabs. The lice in Vagabond’s disease, however, can carry diseases such as typhus and trench fever, so it is more of a cause for concern than the other types.
Pediculosis capitis is transmitted by head-to-head contact. Females are more likely to be infected than males. Long hair increases one’s risk. It’s interesting to note that people of African descent are rarely affected because of their hair texture.
The corporis type is referred to as Vagabond’s disease because an infestation can only occur when a person does not wash their clothing on a regular basis. The lice lay their eggs on or near the seams of clothing. Washing in hot water and drying in a hot dryer destroys the eggs. Homeless people are most often affected by this condition.
Crabs are usually spread via sexual intercourse, although the lice can be spread via shared towels, shared beds, shared clothing or even a shared closet, although the lice can only survive for a short time away from the humidity and warmth of the human body.
What is the best treatment for lice?
Treatment may include cutting or shaving the hair, depending on the affected area. Combs and specialized shampoos are available to remove/kill the adult lice. Permethrin is the active pesticide in most over-the-counter treatments. Herbal remedies are also available over the counter. Oral drugs are rarely prescribed.
Vagabond’s disease typically does not require treatment. Improving hygiene through washing and drying the clothes regularly is all that’s required to get rid of this type of Pediculosis.