This means it can take up to six weeks for a child or adult to develop itchiness that might prompt a head check. And even then, half the people with lice still won’t exhibit any symptoms associated with lice. Most lice experts encourage parents of young children to regularly check their children’s heads for lice. It is important to check thoroughly, as lice are notoriously difficult to see. Here are some helpful tips.
What are head lice?
Head lice are tiny grey bugs the size of a sesame seed that infect the scalp. They lay and attach their eggs (nits) to the hair. Head lice do not cause health problems, but they can be annoying. Anyone can get head lice, it does not mean a person is dirty.
How do you get head lice?
- Head lice cannot fly or jump. They only crawl, but they can move quickly.
- Most head lice are spread by head-to-head contact, such as when children are playing together or sleeping in the same bed.
- Sometimes lice are spread from sharing hats or brushes. They may also travel between coats or scarves placed next to each other (like on a coat rack).
- The eggs (nits) are attached to the hair (not found on items) and do not pass from person to person.
- Children may complain that their head is itchy.
- Some children have red bumps on their scalp or behind their ears.
- Live lice are very hard to see. Seeing nits on the hair is often the only way to tell your child has lice.
- Nits are tiny yellowish-white ovals stuck to the hair shaft. They may look like dandruff, but they won’t blow off and are not easily removed (like dandruff).
- Nits are often seen at the back of the head, just above the neck, or behind the ears.
- Use all treatments according to the directions.
- Use an over-the-counter (OTC) lice product with permethrin 1% (Nix Crème Rinse, others) or pyrethrins (RID Lice Killing Shampoo, others).
- You should also remove the nits from the hair. Be patient as this will take a lot of time. Sit with good lighting and check the hair in one-inch sections. A special nit comb may help remove lice and nits more easily. Not removing the nits can cause the lice products to not work as well.
- Use a second treatment with the OTC lice product nine days after the first treatment, to kill any remaining lice or lice that have just hatched. This may be different than what the product label says, but this is the best time to retreat.
- If you still see live lice after the two treatments, call your child’s prescriber. They may recommend using a prescription lice treatment.
- Don’t use dangerous chemicals such as alcohol, gasoline, or paint thinners to treat head lice. Avoid “natural oils” like tea tree oil because they may not be safe. There is little proof that home remedies such as mayonnaise, petroleum jelly (Vaseline), or Cetaphil cleanser will work, but they can be tried.
- Wash clothes, bedding, and towels used by your child in the last two days. Use hot water (130 degrees F) and/or dry them in a hot dryer (for at least 20 minutes).
- Items that can’t be washed can be dry cleaned, put in the dryer, vacuumed, or sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks.
- Soak recently used combs and brushes in hot water (at least 130 degrees F for five to ten minutes).
- Going overboard with house cleaning is not necessary. Lice sprays on furniture are not needed.
- Carefully check your child’s hair (and other household members’ hair too!) every few days for several weeks after treatment. The sooner you know your child has lice, the easier it is to treat it and keep it from spreading.
Please contact us for any questions.
This content was originally by pharmacist letter.