Head lice are tiny parasites that live on the scalp. They lay their eggs (nits) near the base of the hair shaft. Head lice spread quickly in school and child care environments because kids often work and play closely and share personal items. Head lice don’t fly or jump, they can only crawl from head to head.
What causes head lice?
Head lice spread from person to person by crawling. They can’t fly or jump. When kids share brushes, combs, hats, hair clips, and when they put their heads together at school or at play, lice can crawl from one head to another.
Are head lice serious?
Head lice don’t spread disease and they aren’t serious. The most serious complication of head lice is that vigorous scratching can lead to infections of the scalp. Head lice do need to be dealt with in a timely manner though, as they will never disappear on their own and left to their own devices, you could find yourself with a full-blown family epidemic.
Can I prevent head lice?
As most mums know, it’s hard to keep head lice from spreading to other children at school or child care. If one kid has head lice, others are almost certain to get them. There’s no way to actually prevent head lice, but you can catch infestations early and treat them by checking your child regularly for nits (lice eggs). While there are head lice preventative products available, most are not 100% bullet-proof.
If you find head lice on your child, be sure to notify her school and/or child care so that other parents can check their children. Teach your child not to share personal items like combs, hats, scarves, and hair clips.
How do I know if my child has head lice?
Usually the first sign that your child has head lice is when she scratches her head a lot – although, some children make very good hosts and do little scratching until the problem is acute. Often lice is discovered when you inspect your child’s scalp as the result of notification from school or childcare that another child has head lice.
Lice move quickly, but sometimes they are visible moving on the head. You might also notice that your child has what looks like dandruff, but you can’t brush it off. This “dandruff” might be lice eggs on the hair shaft. Some children have bites around their hairline, particularly around the back of the neck, that can be seen as well.
How do I treat head lice?
Check your child for head lice by looking for live insects crawling on the scalp, or look for nits. The most common places to find nits are behind the ears and at the base of the neck. Nits are tiny white egg shaped specks that are firmly stuck to the hair shaft near the scalp. You can use a nit comb to remove the nits and there are several over-the-counter treatments for killing the insects themselves.
To prevent other members of your family from getting head lice, you’ll need to wash the infected child’s bedding and clothing in hot water. Make sure to wash her combs and brushes too and keep her hair tied back firmly to prevent cross-contamination.
Whichever method you choose to remove head lice and nits, be sure to use the treatment 7-10 days after the initial treatment to catch the next generation of head lice as they hatch.
Should I call the doctor?
Though you may feel like calling for reinforcements as you wage battle against the persistent head lice, your family doctor is not necessary! Head lice can be easily treated at home as long as you follow the instructions of your chosen method of eradication.
What you need to know about head lice
- Head lice are animals that live on the scalp.
- Nits are the eggs of head lice.
- Lice can’t jump or fly from person to person. They can only crawl from head to head, or spread when kids share combs, brushes, hats, and scarves.
- Head lice are easily treated at home.
- Head lice spread quickly, so report head lice to your child’s school or child care centre.