Head lice are a major problem in the Philippines, it is common to see people sat in the street pulling nits out of each others hair.
Why the Philippines has such a problem with head lice
The reason that head lice are such a problem in the Philippines is down to lack of education about them.
People think they can’t afford the treatment to get rid of them. When the truth is you can treat a head lice infection for just 6 pesos a time.
The main way they seem to treat them is by sitting picking the nits out of each other hair.
Picking nits out does not work
Many reasons picking nits out does not work.
Firstly they are picking the nits out not the head lice, nits are the eggs of head lice, not the lice.
A female head louse lays about 100 eggs in her life and lives for about 20 days, this should give you a clue why picking out the eggs will never get rid of head lice.
If a person has 20 female head lice you would need to pick out 100 eggs a day for 20 days to stop them, miss one egg and you will not get rid of them.
Unhatched nits are hard to see
When head lice lay eggs they lay them at the point the hair connects to the scalp, they are also transparent so no matter what colour your hair they look the same colour as your hair.
I have spent a lot of time trying to convince my wife that unhatched nits in mine and my son’s hair will not be black like they are in Filipinos hair.
Hair grows at about 2.5 millimetres a week and it takes 7 to 10 days for head lice to hatch. So all unhatched eggs will normally be within 3 millimetres from the scalp making them difficult to see.
If you are sitting pulling nits out of a person’s hair the chances are all you are doing is pulling out already hatched eggs, so you are having no effect reducing the lice population.
Chemical treatment for head lice
In the UK and many other western countries Doctors realised that chemical treatments were becoming ineffective over 30 years ago, yet still today the University of the Philippines Manila Health Sciences Center still recommends using a shampoo with pyrethrins or permethrin in it.
Head Lice have mutated to become resistant to many chemical lice treatments and the more chemicals are used the more resistant the head lice become.
Many Doctors in the Philippines are still recommending chemical treatment.
You also have to consider that putting any type of chemicals on a child’s head is not good, while the chemical treatments are considered safe there is always the chance of side effects.
Another problem with chemical treatment is it is not cheap so the poor can not afford it.
Old Wife’s Tales of head lice treatments
Vinegar does not work. In my step daughter’s class in the UK, they had a major problem with head lice that went on for over a year, it got so bad the parents complained to the local health authority.
When the local health authority investigated it appeared every parent was treating their child for head lice on the days the school had told them too, so head lice should have been eradicated in the class, yet they still kept spreading.
On questioning the children it turned out one parent was treating their daughter with vinegar and it was discovered it was her that kept spreading them.
Mayonnaise or Coconut Oil
It is claimed by some that these work by stopping the lice from breathing and it is true that they can stop them from breathing, but head lice can hold their breath for over 4 hours, to be sure of these methods working you would need to put on a huge amount of Mayonnaise and leave it on for about half a day.
Get rid of head lice the easy and safe way
Wet Comb System
The wet comb system was developed by a doctor in the Uk and it is easy, cheap and the most effective treatment.
What you need
You can get nit combs for less than 100 pesos the plastic or metal ones work best.
Lice and nits can be removed by wet combing.
You can buy a special fine-toothed comb (detection comb) online or from pharmacies to remove head lice and nits.
Instructions from the NHS (National Health Service)
Wash hair with ordinary shampoo
apply lots of hair conditioner (any conditioner will do)
comb the whole head of hair, from the roots to the ends
It usually takes about 10 minutes to comb short hair, and 20 to 30 minutes for long, frizzy or curly hair.
Do wet combing on days 1, 5, 9 and 13 to catch any newly hatched head lice. Check again that everyone’s hair is free of lice on day 17.
A good nit comb will last years, so the only outlay when your child gets lice is for conditioner and your time.
I have used this technique many times both here in the Philippines and in the UK to get rid of head lice from my family and it has completely eradicated the head lice every time.
How the Wet Comb System works
The conditioner does 2 things, firstly it makes your hair slippery so the lice can not grip the hair.
Secondly, it stops the head lice from breathing. This does not kill them because as already pointed out head lice can hold their breath for over 4 hours, however, it does slow them down meaning they will not be able to run to another part of the head to avoid the nit comb.
The nit comb will not pull out all the lice but it does break their legs meaning they can no longer breed, so you break the breeding cycle of the lice.