Have you noticed your child or baby scratching their heads often, lately? No, they’re not trying to make sense of this mad world. For all you know, the reason behind them scratching their heads could be something deeper (pun intended). Take a closer look at the roots of their hair and in all probability, you might either spot a big, black bug-like insect or tiny white egg-like stuff sticking to the hair. These insects are known as lice (louse in singular) and their eggs are known as nits.
What Are Lice?
Lice are insects that live in human hair. They do not have wings but can easily transfer from one head to another when two heads touch each other. Lice feed on the blood from the human scalp. Although they do not cause any disease, they can irritate your child’s scalp when they bite. When there are too many of them, they could make it worse. And when your child scratches his/her head, it could lead to blisters and wounds that could get infected (1).
What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Lice To Look For?
Nits (Lice Eggs): Lice lay eggs, or nits, on the hair shaft that is very close to the scalp. This is because the warm temperature of the scalp is ideal for hatching. Nits cannot be easily removed by combing with a regular brush or dusted off as they have a strong adherence. They are usually tan or light brown color before hatching and turn white after they hatch. This is when you can spot them easily.
Louse: The adult lice usually look like a dark sesame seed in size when they are fully grown. If there are too many of them, you can see them crawling on your child’s hair. The smaller nymphs are not easily visible since they crawl on the scalp. However, you can see them if you use a fine lice comb.
Incessant Scratching: One of the signs that your child might have lice could be incessant scratching. This is because of the lice bites and a reaction to lice saliva.
Sores Or Tiny Red Bumps: Due to all those bites and scratching, your child might develop tiny sores in his/her scalp. Some of them might even look like red bumps. When your kid scratches the scalp a lot, then these bumps might open up leading to bacterial infections (2).
How To Get Rid Of Head Lice?
Medicated Shampoos: There are a lot of medicated shampoos, lotions, and rinses available for the removal of lice and nits. Some of them are over-the-counter while others can be purchased with a prescription. If you are going for an over-the-counter shampoo, try and follow the instructions given on the pack. Do not use too much or too little of the product so that it does not harm your child’s hair while still being effective in removing the lice.
Some commercial shampoos have chemicals to which the lice have developed resistance. Thus, if your child does not find any relief even after trying the shampoo, then consult your doctor for a prescription medicated shampoo or lotion. In severe cases, the doctor might also prescribe oral medications.
Manual Removal: Another effective way to remove lice and nits is to do so manually. For this, you’ll need a very fine-toothed comb and neat cloth. The best time to comb out lice and nits is either soon after a hair wash or after overnight oiling of your child’s hair. Because water or oil will temporarily stop the movement of the lice and nits, thus making it easier for you to comb through and brush them out. To achieve this, comb your child’s hair through well-sectioned parts. Start with each section at a time. Wipe the comb on the clean cloth immediately after each combing action. This way, the lice and nits trapped inside the fine comb will transfer on the cloth and will not return to the head when you comb your child’s hair again (3).
Cutting Or Shaving Hair: This might seem a bit drastic. However, if the lice infestation is too much, you can cut or shave your child’s head. It’ll not only provide relief to your child but will also stop the infestation.
Head lice are a common problem, especially among school-going children. So, do not fret if your child comes home with lice in his/her head. Just follow these simple measures and make your child aware of head contact with his/her peers at school. For severe cases, consult your doctor.