Your little one gets home from school and is scratching their head aggressively. Then you get the call that head lice is spreading…
It sounds like the beginning of a nightmare, but it’s very common! The most important part is understanding what you need to know to get through the next few weeks.
What Are Head Lice?
First things first, it’s important to know exactly what head lice are. The simplest explanation is that they are small bugs that feed on blood from the scalp and can cause itchiness on the head, ears, and neck. The most common misconception is that lice jump from kid to kid. In fact, because they crawl the general way they transfer is by head-to-head contact or via combs, hats, and other items that may touch a child’s head.
Living only around 28 days, head lice will develop in three phases: egg, nymph, and adult. Eggs will hatch in about six days, which will then lead to the nymph stage. During this stage, the lice will look adult, but have not fully “matured.” At the adult stage, they will begin multiplying rapidly and lay up to 10 eggs per day. It’s important to move fast when removing lice to prevent this from happening!
What Are the Symptoms?
Though you may be able to see the lice, the most obvious symptom is itching. However, it’s important to note that it may take up to four weeks before the scalp becomes sensitive to lice, meaning they could have spread by this time. In addition, the itching can continue to last after the lice are gone due to the sensitivity of the scalp to the saliva of the lice.
How Can I Get Rid of Lice?
Checking for lice regularly is something you’re going to want to do if you have young children. This will allow you to spot them before they’re in large numbers. The easiest way to do so is by parting your child’s hair, focusing on one section at a time, and looking for any abnormality, as nits will sometimes look like dandruff or dirt.
The American Academy of Pediatrics shows which medicines are readily available for removing head lice, and tells a bit more about the “comb-out method” for removing lice after treatment. Make sure to never use anything that is not recommended for head lice as it can be very dangerous to your child’s health!
When dealing with a lice infestation, and even after treatment, make sure to wash all clothes, towels, or sheets that may have come in contact with your child in hot water. This will help prevent spreading to other family members in the house who should also be checked.