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What to do When Your Child Gets Lice
Lice are a common problem for kids from the age of three to twelve years. Lice seem to like girl’s hair more than boys, probably because it is typically longer and has a “pretty” scent. Lice are contagious and an annoyance, but they are not dangerous. They do not cause disease. A child’s scalp will become inflamed and itch from the bites. There can be irritation to the skin and infection from the constant scratching.
Head lice spread easily among both children and adults, making it wise to treat them quickly after they have been discovered.
Signs of Head Lice
Lice are easy to see even though they are very small. A thorough examination of your child’s head by your doctor or yourself might show:
● Nits (lice eggs) before they hatch, nits look like tiny brown, tan or dark yellow dots. The adult lice lay the eggs or nits on the scalp on the hair shafts. They are kept warm by the temperature of the person until they hatch and become lice. They resemble dandruff but cannot be shaken off or brushed out.
It is less common to see lice crawling on the scalp, unless there is a heavy infestation. It is easier to find eggs in the child’s hair. It takes one to two weeks for lice eggs to hatch after being laid. There is a clear or white shell left after the eggs hatch. They remain attached to the hair shaft. They are easiest to see at this stage. The eggshell moves farther down the scalp as the hair continues to grow.
● Baby lice (nymphs) and adult lice are tan or grayish white in color and the size of a seed. It takes one to two weeks for nymphs to become adult lice. Lice can survive as long as two days off the scalp, even though they feed several times a day on blood.
Scratching and itching come with bites from lice. This is a reaction to lice saliva. The itchiness might not be immediate. It depends on the sensitivity of the child’s skin. Children with lice might not start scratching for weeks. There might be complaints of things tickling their heads before the lice are discovered.
Scratching leads to small sores or red bumps. The irritation can be mild for some or a rash can develop. The skin can become tender, red and have oozing and crusting accompanied by swollen lymph glands (bacterial infection) because of the scratching. The infection may be treated with an antibiotic.
Using a fine-toothed comb, separate your child’s hair into sections to check behind their ears, and neck to allow you to see the nits or lice. Rarely are they found on the eyebrows or eyelashes.
You may find that a bright light or magnifying glass helps. There are not a lot of adult lice and they move fast making them hard to find.
You will want to find out if any other children have been treated for lice recently from the director of the childcare center or school nurse. Contact the daycare or school to inform them if you find that your child has signs of lice or nits.
Tammy Mahan has worked in the healthcare field for several years. She has also spent most of her life raising or working with children. When she is not activity wearing the mom or nurse hat, she enjoys sharing her knowledge with Healthline.com .