Head lice, also known as pediculosis, are small gray 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.
Head lice are a small bug that kind of infests your hair and then those little bugs lay eggs or nits right along the hair shaft.
You usually get head lice from another kid. That's why kids get it so frequently. They're up head to head, running into each other, sharing hair brushes, sharing hats, those kinds of things.
What are the symptoms of head lice?
They'll have an itchy head, that's kind of the first symptom. That's the bugs moving around in their hair. Then you may see bugs in their hair and if you look closely you'll see the nits along the hair shaft as well.
What are the treatment options for head lice?
There are lots of over-the-counter shampoos to use for head lice. You can shampoo their hair and rinse it out. It is also really important that you treat everything around them, their bedding, their stuffed animals, their clothing and the furniture in your house.
There are sprays that can be used for things that can't be washed, like your couch. For their bedding, it's important to wash it hot water and even those stuffed animals in the bed with them. It's important to get all of those because the head lice can be on their bedding and they can re-infest their heads.
How long should parents treat for head lice?
When a head lice lays an egg it takes eight days for that egg to hatch. The shampoos usually don't kill off the eggs so a lot of times we'll have to do a second treatment about a week later to kill off those later bugs we may have missed.
It's also important to go through your child's hair and pull out those eggs after you treat them with shampoo.
How can head lice be prevented?
The best ways to prevent head lice is to teach your kids good hygiene, making sure that they're not sharing hats, not sharing hair brushes, and not getting into close contact with other kids.
Other than that, there isn't a lot of great ways to prevent the head lice.