Lice can be a real itch

No one loves creepy-crawlies, but bugs are a fact of life. The worst types of bugs are the ones that crawl on us – and head lice are, unfortunately, at the top of that list, especially for young children. 

Head lice are tiny, wingless insects that feed on human blood. They cannot fly or jump, but can crawl through hair quickly. Lice are spread through close contact with another person who has lice (like at a daycare or a school) or by using or wearing a coat, hat or hairbrush by someone who has lice. 

Symptoms of lice include:

  • Itching: The saliva of the lice causes an allergic reaction when they drink blood, so the most common symptom is itching. 
  • Seeing Eggs or Lice: Parents will notice eggs or nits in their children’s hair. 

Once parents see their child has lice, there are over-the-counter treatment kits available that include shampoo, cream and/or a rinse. It is important to follow the kit’s instructions carefully, as each treatment is a little different. 

A few suggestions for the treatment of lice:

  • Don’t Wash or Blow Dry: Parents should not wash or blow dry their child’s hair for a few days. Some of these products are flammable, so hitting them with heat on top of a child’s head is a bad idea. In addition, the hair dryer can spread lice further, if it blows live lice out of the child’s hair. 
  • Use a Fine-Toothed Comb: After the child’s hair is washed/treated, it is important for the parents to take a fine-toothed comb and carefully go through each strand of the child’s hair. Lice leave eggs and nits (empty eggs) and those do not come out with treatment alone. Leaving even one egg or nit in the hair will cause the lice to come back and need additional treatment. 
  • Be Diligent: It can be difficult for parents to see the difference between regular dandruff and lice nits. Dandruff blows out or off of the hair easily, while nits have to be physically removed with the fine-toothed comb. Nits tend to gather at the scalp, as lice prefer the warmth of being close to the skin. 
  • Continue Using the Comb: Parents should use the nit comb every day for the first week, then once a week for the next three weeks. The nit comb should be used for two weeks after the last nit is found, to ensure all of the lice have been removed. It is also recommended to use another treatment 10 to 14 days after the first treatment. 
  • Do a Second Treatment if Needed: Many parents struggle with recurrent lice, which is typically because nits were missed in the initial treatment. Parents can do a second or third treatment on their child, but it is not recommended to do any further treatment without visiting a doctor. There are prescriptions available, as some strands of lice have become resistant to treatment. 
  • Be Patient: Know that lice are very common and do not mean your child is dirty. Families of all socio-economic backgrounds experience lice and being patient and staying diligent will ensure a successful removal.