How to spot head lice Scritch, scratch, here’s how to spot the signs of head lice and treat the little suckers
How to check for and treat head lice, plus tips for managing ezcema
What are they?
Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are small, wingless insects that live and feed on the human scalp, while nits are the eggs of the adult head lice. While they can be unpleasant to deal with, they are harmless and do not pose a threat to your child, nor are they an indication of how clean your family or home is.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptom of head lice is itching and scratching around the nape of the neck and behind the ears. Some children will scratch these areas to the point where the skin breaks and bleeds. Some people who contract lice do not scratch, so it’s important to examine – and if necessary, treat – every member of the family. Examine the scalp and look for the small white oval-shaped or brown eggs (nits) and tan-coloured head lice. The adult lice can move quickly, so you may need to use a fine-toothed lice comb to find them.
How do you get them?
Head lice are easily transmitted from one person to another. They cannot fly or hop, they simply crawl from one head to another. They do not discriminate between clean, dirty, straight or curly hair. They are common in preschool and school-aged children because kids’ heads are often close together as they play or do their schoolwork.
What can you do?
There are two methods you can use to treat head lice; the ‘comb and conditioner’ method, or chemical removal. The first method involves applying a thick layer of conditioner to the entire head and scalp, then methodically combing through to remove nits and head lice. Chemical removal involves applying a treatment from the chemist to the hair, and again combing through thoroughly. Whichever option you choose, you will need to repeat the treatment at least once, seven days after the initial treatment, to ensure the life cycle of the head lice is broken. Check with your GP or pharmacist before treating under-twos as some treatments may not be suitable for their scalps, and don't use chemical treatments on yourself if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. There is no need to fumigate your house or wash all towels and bedding as lice cannot live for very long away from a human head. Simply treat and check everyone in the family regularly, and wash hats and pillowcases in hot water. Avoid sharing combs and brushes and tie long hair up.
When to see your GP?
Bring your child to see the doctor if he is scratching and itching a lot and it is disturbing his sleep; if sores develop on the scalp or if the head lice recur more than three or four times in a 12-month period.