Head Lice and What You Can Do About It Right Now

Health professional runs a head lice comb through patient's hair.

It happens to the best of us. Your child comes home from school scratching his head. After you get beyond the panic and the deep-cleaning of your house and everything in it, it’s time to get to work.

First of all, you are by no means alone. Millions of people get head lice every year. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 6 to 12 million children between 3 and 12 years of age get head lice each year in the United States alone.

Having head lice does not mean a person is unclean or doesn’t take care of themselves. Most people simply get it from head-to-head contact. Lice seek human blood to survive and will crawl from one person’s head to another to eat, lay eggs, and carry on. They do not, however, jump. They are not known to spread diseases but will make your scalp very itchy and uncomfortable. The scratching is where you can cause damage. When you scratch and create sores, you can create an infection. It’s important to treat head lice as soon as you identify it.

Head Lice Signs and Symptoms

As for head lice symptoms, people often describe a crawling sensation on the scalp and may be kept awake at night from the itching. This is your cue to look for lice. There are two things to search for in order to identify head lice: adult lice and eggs. You’ll need a bright light and a fine-toothed comb. Wet the hair and separate it into sections beginning at the scalp and slowly comb through each section. This is what you are looking for:

• Adult lice look like tiny brown seed-like objects that are moving quickly on the scalp or hair.

• Eggs (nits) are brown, yellow, or tan seed-like objects that are attached to individual hairs. When head lice eggs hatch, the color of the remaining shell will be clear. Nits are easier to find than adult lice.

Head Lice Treatments

Most people can treat head lice right at home with over-the-counter products. You can use a lice shampoo and the included comb, which has teeth that are much closer together than regular combs. These help to catch lice and their nits in order to remove them.

The shampoo is typically one which will lather and be left in for a few minutes. You don’t want to use lice shampoo during a shower in order to limit the skin lice can come in contact with. Use a spray hose or running water in the sink to only wash and rinse the hair and scalp. Check it again in about 12 hours to note whether the medicine is working and the lice are slowing down or dying. Wait a couple days before washing your hair to maximize the benefits of the medicated lice shampoo. Comb the hair daily for a couple weeks to ensure you get rid of all of the lice and eggs. Most importantly, follow the instructions on the lice shampoo packaging.

If the at-home treatment is not working, talk to The Derm Group. A board-certified dermatologist in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Connecticut can provide a prescription medication such as ivermection lotion, malathion lotion, lindane shampoo, or spinnosad suspension.

Head Lice Prevention

Head lice spread easily and quickly. The most important task to take on is cleaning. Here are some of the items you should check and clean to prevent head lice from spreading:

• Pillowcases, sheets, blankets, towels, and clothes
• Stuffed animals and plush toys
• Hair accessories such as combs, brushes, and wraps
• Helmets and headphones
• Furniture, carpets, and floors

Wash and dry fabric items on hot. You can place accessories and personal items in plastic bags and place in the freezer over night or simply keep them sealed for two weeks. Vacuum thoroughly to catch any loose hair and empty the vacuum bag or canister. Also, don’t forget to call the school or daycare to let everyone know what they should be looking for as well.

For any questions regarding head lice, Request a Consultation with The Derm Group online or call us at (973) 571-2121.

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