Head lice are small, parasitic insects that survive solely on human blood. Children commonly catch and transfer lice via hair-to-hair contact. Brushes, plush toys, hair clips, and hats can also transmit lice from person to person. Head lice infestations are very common and very contagious. Family members frequently catch head lice from infected loved ones.
If you notice small white specks in your child’s hair, a live bug, or unusual itchiness, take the following steps:
Try not to panic.
The idea of small bugs crawling on the scalp can give anyone the heebie-jeebies. However, lice are not a sign of poor hygiene, and they don’t directly transmit infections. They are more of a nuisance than anything, and you can get rid of them with simple treatments and precautions.
Call your doctor.
Call your pediatrician to confirm the diagnosis and receive professional advice for treating lice allergies or secondary infections from scratching. With a confirmed diagnosis, call your child’s school, let the office know your child has lice, and ask about current head lice policies. Some schools have “no-nit” policies. The school nurse may have to look over your child’s head before he or she can return to class.
Clean your house thoroughly.
Wash all recently used clothes, bedding, fabric hair accessories, and plush toys with hot water and a hot drying cycle. Sanitize hair brushes, clips, and other items in boiling water. Vacuum all remaining surfaces. After the initial cleaning, wash potentially affected bedding and clothing daily to avoid reinfection.
Follow recommended treatment protocols.
Check for remaining nits and lice in the days after you discover the infection using a lice comb. Continue the treatment regimen for as long as recommended, even if you don’t see lice in the comb or in your child’s hair. You may need to treat the entire family at once.
To prevent future encounters with these small parasites, arrange long hair in braids or use ponytails to minimize hair-to-hair contact. Teach your child to recognize others’ personal space and to avoid sharing items including earbuds, brushes, hats, and hair accessories.
With the right approach to treatment, you can eliminate a lice infestation in a matter of days or weeks. At Green Hills Pediatric Associates, we can help you diagnose and treat head lice. Our team is here to answer your questions and provide personalized prevention tips to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence.