The head louse is a tiny, wingless parasitic insect that lives among human hairs and feeds on extremely small amounts of blood drawn from the scalp. They are very common problem, especially for kids ages 3 – 12 years. Their bites may cause a child’s scalp to become itchy and inflamed, and persistent scratching may lead to skin irritation and even infection.
Signs of Head Lice
Though very small, lice can be seen by the naked eye. The adult louse is no bigger than a sesame seed and is grayish-white or tan. Nymphs are smaller and become adult lice about 1-2 weeks after they hatch. Most lice feed on blood several times a day, but they can survive up to 2-3 days off the scalp.
Lice eggs (nits). These look like tiny yellow, tan, clear, or brown oval eggs. Lice lay nits on hair shafts close to the skin’s surface, where the temperature is perfect for keeping warm until they hatch. Lice eggs hatch within 1 – 2 weeks after they’re laid. Check for nits behind the ears and around the nape of the neck.
Scratching - The itching may not always start right away. It depends on how sensitive your child’s skin is to the lice. It can sometimes take weeks for kids with lice to start scratching. They may complain, though, of things moving around on or tickling their heads.
Facts about Lice
They spread quickly from person to person, especially in group settings (schools, childcare centers, slumber parties, sports activities, and camps). They spread mainly through head-to-head contact, but sharing clothing, bed linens, combs, brushes, and hats can also help pass them along. Kids are most prone to catching lice because they tend to have close physical contact with each other and often share personal items.
Can your animals catch them or pass them? Your pets can’t catch head lice and pass them on to people or the other way around.
Your doctor can recommend a medicated shampoo, cream rinse, or lotion to kill the lice. These may be over-the-counter or prescription medications. Mayonnaise also works see handout on how to use. You need to comb out all nits after treatment with a fine tooth comb. It is recommended that repeating treatment in 7 – 10 days to kill any newly hatched nits.
Check your children for lice regularly and teach them to not share combs, brushes or hats.
- Wash all bed linens and clothing that’s been worn by anyone in your home who’s infested in very hot water, then put them in the hot cycle of the dryer for at least 20 minutes
- Dry clean any clothing that isn’t machine washable.
- stuffed animals and plush toys that can’t be washed or dry cleaned, put them in airtight bags for 2 week.
- Vacuum carpets and any upholstered furniture in your home or car.
- Soak hair-care items like combs, barrettes, hair ties or bands, headbands, and brushes in rubbing alcohol or medicated shampoo for 1 hour. You can also wash them in hot water or just throw them away.