Head Lice: Symptoms and Treatment

Head Lice or “nits” as they are sometimes referred to (after the name of the eggs) are a tiny parasitic insect that live on hair and feed off blood from the scalp. Sounds gross but they are very common, particularly in young kids. Head lice are highly contagious especially within large groups so with schools going back the risk of catching them will be higher.

How do I know if they are present?

One of the easiest ways to determine if your child has head lice is by checking their scalp. While the lice are small, and their eggs even smaller they are both visible to the naked eye. So if you can see them that is pretty much confirmation that your child has them!

Of course other indications that may make you carry out a scalp check include your child complaining of an itchy scalp as the lice biting can cause this itch and of course lots of scratching can cause irritation and redness of the scalp, another indication of possible head lice.

How do I treat them?

There are a number of over the counter medications that can be applied to the scalp to kill the lice. A local pharmacy will advise the best course. It is important to follow instructions carefully and ensure treatment is completed to ensure their elimination.

Investment is a fine tooth comb is a handy piece of kit when it comes to dealing with lice. It is also possible to purchase electronic combs that zap the lice!. Regularly combing out the hair to remove eggs is essential for up to 2 weeks after treating the scalp.

Rinsing the childs hair with vinegar before combing will help as it will make the lice eggs swell up and make their removal by comb much easier.

Of course if the lice persist or if there are any further issues your GP should be consulted.

Prevention is better than cure

Obviously it is best to try and avoid them if at all possible (although that can be difficult given how contagious they are) but some simple steps such as:

• Avoiding hair to hair contact;

• Tying hair up particularly when going to school or nursery;

• Avoid sharing brushes, combs etc;

• Avoid lying on pillows, rugs and other items that may have been in contact with an infected person;

• Checking for nits or lice regularly;

• Use of tea tree shampoos and conditioner can also help keep them at bay.

On the bright side, if you or your child do end up with a case of head lice they say it is a sign of clean hair!

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