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Head Lice

Head Lice image

Head lice, also known as pediculosis, are small gr​ay bugs that move quickly and are difficult to see. Lice are a common problem among school-age children. The bugs leave an abundance of nits, which are white eggs that firmly attach to hairs particularly around the back of the neck. If a child has lice, the scalp may be itchy and a rash may develop.

Head lice can affect anyone even if they have good health habits, such as washing the hair frequently. Lice will spread quickly when children are in close contact or when a hat, comb, or brush of an infected child is shared. Once your child has been affected, the eggs will hatch into lice in about a week.

Treatment of Head Lice

If your child has lice, prompt treatment is a necessity. With proper treatment, all lice and nits can be eliminated. To kill the lice and eggs:

  • Using an anti-lice shampoo or rinse - For most shampoos, pour 2 ounces of the shampoo onto dry hair. Add warm water and work hair into a lather. Scrub the hair and scalp for at least 20 minutes. If you scrub for less than 20 minutes, the lice will most likely return. Rinse the hair thoroughly and dry with a towel. Repeat again in 7 days to prevent reinfection. Make sure to follow the directions on the bottle.
  • Removing the nits - Wait at least 3 hours after shampooing before removing the dead nits. First, loosen the eggs with a mixture of half vinegar and half water. Wrap the hair in a towel and wait 30 minutes. Then remove the eggs by backcombing with a fine-tooth comb.
  • Treating the eyelashes - If nits or lice are in the eyelashes, apply plain petroleum jelly twice a day for 8 days.
  • Cleaning the house - Head lice can only live on humans and can not live off the body for more than 24 hours. However, you will want thoroughly clean your house and certain items. Vacuum your child’s room, wash his or her sheets, blankets, and pillowcases in hot water. Seal items such as hats, coats, or stuffed animals that cannot be washed in plastic ziplock bags for two weeks. Soak combs and brushes in an anti-lice solution for one hour.

You should check the heads of everyone living in your house for scalp rashes, sores, or itching. If any of these symptoms appear, follow the same procedure.

Your child’s school or daycare should be notified immediately so other children can be treated and the facilities can be cleaned. Your child can return to school once the anti-lice shampoo treatment has been used and no nits are present.

To lessen the chances of getting head lice remind your child not to share combs or hats and always store jackets or coats inside his or her locker or backpack while at school.

Contact your child’s physician during office hours if sores start to spread or look infected, the lice and nits return, or the rash and itching don’t disappear a week after treatment.​