Head Lice: How to Treat It and Prevent It

Growth and Development, Health and Safety
Head Lice: How to Treat It and Prevent It

The head louse is a tiny, wingless parasite that lives on human hairs and feeds on small amounts of blood drawn from the scalp. Lice are a common problem and the bane of many parents with children between the ages of 3 and 12 years. Signs of lice include itching or scratching on the head, small bumps or sores as the result of scratching, and sights of lice. Although they are small, lice are visible with the naked eye, so thoroughly examining the child’s head is the best way for doctors to diagnose the condition.

How They Spread
Lice are not dangerous and will not spread a disease; however, they are extremely contagious. They can spread quickly from one person to another, especially in group settings like in schools, childcare programs, sport teams, and summer camps. They cannot fly, but they have adapted claws that allow them to crawl and then cling onto hair. Lice spreads mainly through head-to-head touching, as well as sharing clothing, combs, hats, and bed linens. Unlike common myth, pets cannot catch lice or pass them on to people. Kids are the most prone because they are more likely to have close physical contact. Therefore, it is important to treat head lice as soon as a diagnosis has been made to avoid it spreading to another person.

Doctors will recommend either over-the-counter or prescription medicated shampoo, cream rinse, or lotion that can be used to kill the lice. These medicines typically kill the lice and eggs, but it may take several days for the itching of the scalp to stop. If the lice are resistant to the treatment, an oral medication can also be prescribed. It is essential that the directions are following exactly because they are insecticides.
If the child is under 2 years old or the lice is extremely resistant to other treatment, the nits and lice will need to be removed by hand. This involves using a fine-tooth comb on wet, conditioned to comb out the lice every three to four days for at least two weeks after the last louse was seen. Wetting the hair is important because it will temporarily immobilize the lice and make it easier to comb through.

Preventing Infestation
Once the lice have disappeared, it is necessary to take steps to avoid it from coming back. Wash all of the child’s bed linens and clothing that they have recently worn in very hot water. Put them in the hot cycle of the dryer for at least twenty minutes after. Any bed linens, clothing, or toys that cannot be washed must be dry-cleaned. Vacuum carpets and upholstered furniture wherever the child has been, including the car. Soak combs, hair ties, headbands, and brushes in medicated shampoo or rubbing alcohol for at least one hour. Take all precautions necessary to avoid coming in contact with an infected person again as well.

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