What to do if your Child has Head Lice
Head lice are tiny insects that feed on human blood. They don’t spread diseases and pose very little threat to human health but they are an annoyance, are very common in young children and you will need to take action to get rid of them.
Despite many claims, head lice don’t occur because hair is dirty and don’t indicate a lack of hygiene. People with head lice aren’t contagious but the condition is spread by coming into contact with someone who already has head lice, either by touching heads or sharing items such as hats, combs and towels. You can’t do anything to prevent head lice, and outbreaks often spread throughout schools.
How to Check for Head Lice
Symptoms that suggest the presence of head lice are an itchy scalp, a feeling that something is moving in the hair or spots of blood on the scalp that can become infected, especially if scratched. You can check for the presence of head lice by:
- Using a magnifying glass to spot them as they are only very small, about 3mm long, and so are difficult to detect. Head lice eggs (commonly known as nits) are brown in colour and will be attached to the hair very close to the scalp while empty shells are white. Shining a bright light on the scalp will cause the live head lice to move away so you can see them more easily. They’re most likely to be present behind the ears, on the neck and along the hair line but less commonly on eyebrows and eyelashes
- Using a fine-tooted comb (a detection comb, which you can buy online or at a pharmacy) to find live head lice and their eggs.
- Asking the school nurse to check.
How to get rid of Head Lice
Treatment is generally straightforward and doesn’t require a doctor, although you need to act quickly. You don’t need to keep your child off school unless asked, but you should alert the school and you should check and treat if necessary everyone in the household because the head lice can spread.
The first course of action is to wash the hair with shampoo, apply plenty of conditioner and then use the detection comb to remove the lice. Be very thorough, typically taking 10-20 minutes for each head of hair or even more for very long hair. Repeat every 2-3 days to remove newly hatched eggs.
If all the lice haven’t been removed after two weeks or so, go to your pharmacy and obtain medicated sprays or lotions that will kill the head lice. You can also obtain these online or from most supermarkets. Always reads the packaging thoroughly before you apply the product to ensure you use it correctly. You can use the comb to remove dead lice and may also use it later as a precautionary measure to remove any new head lice before they become too established.
To prevent the spread, wash any items that are likely to be affected, such as hats, combs, bedding and towels. Use a hot temperature to kill any head lice and also vacuum mattresses and floors to remove infected hairs.
If you can’t clear the problem, consult a doctor for advice. At Instant Consult, we can help with head lice and a host of other medical problems so do not hesitate to get in touch.
by Instant Consult