“How Do I Know If My Child Has Head Lice And How Do I Treat It?”

Lissa Logan

Often associated with poor personal hygiene, head lice carry a heavy stigma. The truth is quite a different story, though. Here are the facts:

  • Head lice are spread through head-to-head contact
  • Skipping showers or poor hygiene does not cause the infestation.
  • Children that live in crowded conditions are more likely to contract head lice because close living quarters encourage infestation.
  • Head lice cannot be spread to your pets, and your pets cannot infect your child. This is a strictly human-to-human infestation. These nasty little creatures cannot survive without a human host.
  • Children age 3-11 are most affected with girls contracting the infestation more often.

The initial symptom of head lice is constant head scratching. Examine the hair for signs of activity. Also examine the scalp, the back of the neck, and around the ears. You may see a rash as well as little red bites from the lice.

Time to take action! Use an over-the-counter anti-lice shampoo. Wash your child’s hair and let the shampoo sit for one minute. You’ll want to repeat this in seven days because the shampoo does not kill the eggs, only the adults. Lice hatch their eggs in 7-10 days, so an additional shampoo will kill the newly hatched eggs.

Use a lice comb to remove the nits, or eggs, while the hair is still wet. Clothing worn in the last 24-48 hours should be washed in hot water. For clothes that cannot be washed, you can seal them in a plastic bag for several weeks. This usually isn’t necessary, but it can be done.

If you find that the over-the-counter shampoo doesn’t kill the infection, contact your pediatrician for a prescription shampoo.

Make sure your child knows not to share combs, brushes, scarves, or hats. When sleeping over at a friend’s house, teach your child to use only their pillow and sleeping bag, no sharing.

Once your child comes home, throw the sleeping bag in the dryer for 30 minutes. This will kill any potential infestation. Take a proactive approach with head lice to avoid ever having to treat them!

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