Treating Head Lice
What are head lice?
Head lice are tiny insects the size of a sesame seed. Young lice are clear but as they feed on blood they become a reddish-brown to black color. Usually head lice do not cause serious health problems, but they can be annoying and emotionally traumatic. Getting head lice does not mean a person is dirty, but rather that they have been near someone with head lice.
How do you get head lice?
While head lice do not fly or jump, they can move quickly. Head lice travel from person to person after close contact. Sharing of hats, brushes, combs, or pillows can easily spread head lice from one person to the next. Close head-to-head contact, such as when children are playing together, can also spread head lice.
What are the symptoms?
Children with head lice may complain of their head itching. Some children may also have red, hive-like bumps on their scalp. If you look closely you may see the live lice, but not always. The nits, or lice eggs, are often the only visible sign of a lice infestation. The tiny yellowish-white oval nits are attached to the hair shaft and may be confused the dandruff. Unlike dandruff, nits are not flaky or easily removed from the hair. Nits may be found throughout the hair, but are most commonly seen at the back of the head, just above the neck,
or behind the ears.
How do you treat head lice?
Once you know your child has head lice, you should begin treatment. Use over-the-counter shampoos containing permethrin 1% (Nix) or pyrethrins (RID) is the first step. When using these products the directions should be carefully followed. In addition to using the shampoos, you will need to manually remove the nits. The hair should be inspected in one inch segments. A fine-tooth lice comb can be used to comb out remaining live lice and nits. If the nits are not removed, then the chance of the lice returning are higher.
When do you need to contact a doctor?
If the first treatment fails, then a second treatment can be used nine days after the initial treatment. If after two treatments you still see live lice, you should contact the doctor for further instructions.
What treatments should you avoid?
Do not use chemicals such as rubbing alcohol, kerosene, gasoline, or paint thinners to try to kill the lice.
How do you treat your home if a person has head lice?
Be sure to machine wash clothes, bedding, and towels used within the previous 2 days in hot water and dry them in a hot dryer. Items that cannot be washed or dry cleaned can be vacuumed or put in a sealed plastic bag for 2 weeks. Soak combs and brushes in hot water for 5-10 minutes. Do not used lice sprays on furniture or bedding.