Common ailments

Head lice

My daughter is complaining of an itchy scalp and I know there was an outbreak of head lice in her class at school recently. How do I know if my daughter has caught head lice?

Head lice are tiny insects that live on human hair. They are very tiny and browny-grey in colour and they survive by biting the scalp and feeding on blood. This usually causes itching but not always. What you need to look for are the tiny eggs which the head lice lay. These are almost translucent and stick to individual hairs, hatching into baby head lice 7-10 days later.

If you think your daughter may have head lice, you will need to thoroughly check her hair. The most common places for head lice to lurk are in the hair behind the ears and the nape of the neck. You can use a special louse detection comb, or ‘nit comb’, available over the counter from most pharmacies, to comb out any head lice or eggs. You may find this easier to do on wet hair.  

If you find any live head lice, you will need to treat the hair and scalp with a medicated lotion or spray for head lice as soon as possible, as head lice spread very quickly. You should only use medicated treatment on live, moving head lice. Don’t treat ‘just in case’.

I would recommend that you use a treatment designed to be left on the hair overnight, rather than one that claims to kill head lice in ten minutes. You can then be certain that all head lice have been eliminated before using a nit comb to remove them and any empty eggs from the hair. It is also very important that you check everyone in the family and treat everyone affected.

Check for baby lice hatching from eggs 3-5 days after using the treatment and again 10-12 days afterwards.

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