What is an uku?
If you are from Hawaii, you know exactly what an uku is. Uku is the Hawaiian word for Lice. Growing up here, you most likely have had ukus at least once and for most it’s multiple times. If you are new to Hawaii and have never experienced ukus, not to worry! You are sure to get it soon enough! Ukus are very common and unfortunately are kind of a way of life here on our islands. We are an affectionate culture. We greet everyone with hugs not handshakes. Everyone has an uku story about their mom, aunty or tutu picking at their hair for multiple hours, days and weeks! Do you remember getting slapped on the back of the neck because you were crying, moving, and couldn’t sit still … as well as undergoing multiple home remedies that have been passed down from generations? All while your cousins and siblings are having fun playing while you are going through that torture! It’s funny when you hear the stories or reminisce about those times. But now that I’m a mom, its not funny at all. Now I totally understand why aunty and tutu were angry when Jr Boy came home with ukus! And thank goodness we now have a scientifically proven method to get rid of them in about an hour!
But what really is an uku? How are they passed from person to person? How do they live, thrive, and make house in your hair?
Ukus (Head Lice) are tiny parasites that are only specific to human heads. No – they will not be on your dog, cat, or pet chicken. They only live, spread, and multiply on the top of your warm, cozy head!
Ukus are wingless so they don’t fly or jump. They only crawl and crawling is all they need to do to move from one head to another. They are spread by head to head contact. So the next time you may want to think twice about taking a selfie with your BFF or when you hug and honi (kiss) all the cousins at the next baby Luau. It just takes a few seconds for a bug to crawl from an infested head to yours. Prevention is key – so be aware of who your hair is touching!
Ukus live for about 30 days and in those 30 or so days they are super busy. A female louse (live bug) lays 6-8 eggs everyday of her mature life. She only needs to mate once (yes, once!) with a male and she is a fertile myrtle for the rest of her life. Once an egg is laid, it takes about 7-10 days for it to hatch. The eggs are laid/glued on a single hair shaft close to the scalp. Once the eggs hatch, the baby bug starts its life. They are so tiny so trying to find one in your hair is next to impossible. In fact, most people don’t even realize they have ukus until about a month or two has passed.
Why am I itchy? It’s a combination of things. The first thing people think of is the actual bug crawling in-between your hair strands. This can cause itching, but mostly the itch comes from the bug bites. Ukus survive off of sucking your blood, that’s right … I said sucking your blood! They bite you on your scalp, inject a saliva so your blood doesn’t clot, and have an endless supply of your yummy blood. As your bite marks are healing and scabbing over it can cause itching and discomfort.
Lice cannot survive off the head for more than 48 hours. So before you go into “let’s rip apart the house mode”… here is what we recommend. After you eradicate the ukus on your head (by having a treatment done at Lice Clinics America Hawaii *wink, wink*), you really don’t have to stress about tearing your house apart. Ukus know they need to eat frequently so they really don’t want to come off your head and cruise around on your carpet or throw pillows. We always recommend doing light house work by washing/drying your bedding and pillow cases, towels, and bagging up brushes and hair ties for 2 days. But completely tearing your house apart is unnecessary.
Being armed with knowledge when it comes to ukus makes it a lot less stressful when your family member comes home with these pesky bugs.
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