How Do You Know If Your Child Has Head Lice
Almost every child will get infested with head lice once in their life. This is a troubling infestation that can be hard to get rid of. The sooner you notice the infestation, the better. Here are some important signs to watch for:
- Itching of the scalp. This is the #1 symptom of head lice. You might notice your child scratching his or her head excessively, or they might complain of an itchy scalp. However, itching can be caused by things other than head lice, so you should look for further symptoms before confirming a diagnosis.
- Your child may also complain of a feeling of something crawling in their hair.
- There may be sores on the head, caused by excessive itching or scratching.
- If you suspect your child may have head lice, look in their hair. Lice are about the size of a sesame seed, and their color can range from a light gray to brown.
Seeing an adult louse confirms a diagnosis of a lice infestation. Nits may also be present. These are the eggs laid by the lice, and are attached to the hair shaft. Brown or tan eggs have not hatched yet, while white eggs are really just empty egg casings. If the nits are within /4 of an inch of the scalp, this is probably a new infestation and should be treated.
If your child has head lice, don't panic!
- This does not mean your child is dirty.
- Lice infest anyone, regardless of hygiene.
- It doesn't mean your house is dirty, either. Head lice do not live for more than a day away from the human scalp that is their food supply, so lice do not come from a dirty house.
Your child probably got head lice from playing with, hugging, or wrestling with another child who was infected.
- Lice do not usually hang out on hats, combs, bedding, or upholstery.
- They much prefer to remain on the scalp.
- Most cases of head lice are contracted from head-to-head contact between children.
If your child is infected with head lice, there are a variety of treatments.
- Commercial pesticide shampoos are available. These usually work pretty well but can have negative side effects. Evidence is beginning to show that lice are becoming more resistant to these pesticides, so their effectiveness may decrease over time.
- It is possible, although tedious and time consuming, to comb all the lice out. This is called "nitpicking". Often it is not 100% effective, so it should be combined with a secondary treatment.
- There are lots of natural treatments that people have found successful. Mayonnaise or vinegar can help eradicate lice. Put the mayonnaise on the hair and cover with a shower cap. Although there are no scientific studies to back up this method, some parents swear by it. Vinegar can help dissolve the "glue" that attaches the nits to the hair shaft.
- NEVER use dog shampoo on your child!
Photo Credit: Eran Finkle