Head lice is a very frustrating condition for children. Wrongly blamed on poor hygiene, head lice can actually affect anyone; fortunately, there are several effective treatment options to get rid of it. Which one should you choose?
What does head lice look like?
Lice are grayish insects, about the size of a sesame seed, that feed on blood. They love both clean hair and dirty hair, and can affect anyone.
The female louse can lay up to 10 nits (eggs) a day: live eggs are white-grey in colour and shiny, stay close to the scalp and are difficult to remove. Dead eggs are much whiter and are not stuck to the scalp.
Transmission of lice from person to person is done through direct hair contact. Contrary to popular belief, lice can neither fly nor jump from one head to another. In addition, is it less common to spread the condition via objects such as hairbrushes or pillows since a louse cannot survive for more than three days without a scalp to thrive on.
How can I tell if my child has head lice?
The main symptom, obviously, is itching on the head, neck and ears. However, lice do not always cause itchiness. You may also notice small red spots on the scalp; those are bloodstains resulting from lice bites.
To check, you must use a fine-toothed comb and follow these steps:
- Put the child’s head under a lamp. Because lice avoid light, you’ll be able to see them moving.
- Wet the hair.
- Part the hair into several strands with the comb.
- Comb through each strand, one at a time.
- Pay close attention behind the ears and on the back of the neck.
- After combing each strand, check the comb for nits or adult lice.
- Wash your hands.
It is advisable to check your child’s scalp every day if there is a lice outbreak in your surroundings. It is also wise to do it every week throughout the back-to-school season, as a precaution.
How can I prevent lice?
Unfortunately, there is no preventive treatment for head lice. Only early detection and rapid treatment of the infected person can prevent the spread of lice.
There are, however, a few little things you can remind your child to avoid its transmission.
- Tie long hair back.
- Do not share your personal items, such as hats, scarves and hairbrushes.
- Stash your hats, caps and scarves in the sleeves of a jacket.
- Avoid leaning your head against someone else’s.
What treatments are available?
If you detect lice or nits, it is important to apply head-lice treatment as quickly as possible. Several treatment options are available at the pharmacy, so ask your pharmacist for help; he or she will be able to recommend the best one for your needs. In some cases, he can even prescribe treatment.
Here are a few extra tips that may help with head lice:
- Examine the head of every member of your family.
- Treat only the individuals who have lice or nits.
- Treat all infected individuals on the same day.
- Notify the school or daycare, as well as people who have been in contact with the infected person.
- Follow the instructions recommended by the maker of the head-lice treatment you are using.
- Thoroughly wash all personal objects (bedding, combs, hairbrushes, hats, caps and other accessories).
- Apply the product a second time about 7 to 9 days after the first application (it varies depending on the product) and even a third time, if required for the product you are using.
- Use a fine-toothed comb, along with the treatment, 2, 11 and 17 days after first applying the product to increase chances of success.
- Start over with a complete treatment, using a different product, if you still find lice 17 days after the first application.
Head lice are not dangerous, but they are a major inconvenience and can cause real headaches. Get informed by asking your pharmacist for an effective treatment.
Don’t forget that early detection and rapid treatment are the keys to eliminating head lice.