Just thinking about head lice can make you start itching. If your school or daycare center has notified you that head lice have been detected, you’ll want to check your child (and yourself) immediately. According to Melanie Sherman, owner of Lice Clinics of America – Bakersfield, here are some of the signs your child may have head lice:
- Scratching: If your child is scratching his or her head more than usual, it may be time to check for lice. The most common symptom of head lice is itching. This is because lice bites can cause an allergic reaction in 50% of people, which stimulates the itchy sensation. However, it can take a few weeks for this symptom to develop.
- Tickling sensation: Some children experience a “tickly” feeling from lice bites or from lice touching their skin. This is a less severe reaction than the itching.
- Sores or scratch marks: If you see sores or scratch marks on your child’s head or neck, it can be a sign your child has an active lice infestation. Children often scratch harder than they need to, which can break the skin and cause sores and scabs.
- Disruption of sleep patterns: Head lice can make sleep difficult for youngsters. If your child is having a harder time than usual going to sleep or staying asleep, that might be a sign that head lice have invaded his or her scalp.
- Irritability: If your child is more irritable than usual, this can be an indication that head lice are present. Irritability often coincides with chronic itchiness and sleeplessness. These symptoms can combine, especially when an infestation is more mature.
It’s important to point out that an itchy scalp alone is not always an indication of head lice. “Itchiness can also be a symptom of other harmless conditions, such as dandruff, allergies, or a reaction to a hair product,” said Sherman. “Make sure you do your due diligence and double check.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), misdiagnosis of head lice infestation is common. The most reliable symptom, of course, is the presence of a live louse or lice on a child’s head.
How to Spot Lice
To be sure that your child has lice, you’ll need to do a physical inspection of his or her head and neck. “Checking your child’s head for lice is a simple process,” said Sherman. “First, start at the nape area of the neck and around their ears. These are the locations where lice are most likely to live. They stay very near the scalp to stay warm, about a quarter of an inch from the skin. Separate the hair as finely as possible. It helps to wet the hair first as it takes care of the wispy hair. Head lice are about the size of a sesame seed. They can be difficult to see, so some people suggest using a magnifying glass if you have one. If you have a louse comb, run it through the hair multiple times, wiping it on a paper towel after each pass. Inspect the paper towel to see if you pull head lice or nymphs (young lice) from the hair. You’re three to five times more likely to accurately diagnose a lice infestation if you comb first, versus just visually inspecting the hair.”
About Eggs (Nits)
Identifying and removing live lice is just one step in the lice treatment process. “It’s just as important to identify and remove all eggs (nits). If all eggs are not killed or removed, they will hatch and you’ll have a fresh case of head lice on your hands,” said Sherman. “Lice eggs are tiny, camouflaged, and they stick with a strong glue-like substance to the hair. Finding and removing eggs, also known as nitpicking, is best done using a fine-toothed comb.” Nits are often confused with other particles found in hair such as dandruff, hair spray droplets, and dirt particles.
“The most important thing to remember is to not panic,” says Sherman. “While a case of head lice can be stressful and frustrating for parents and children, please keep in mind head lice do not cause serious health problems. In addition, lice infestations are completely unrelated to personal hygiene. The only reason your child has lice is because he or she had close contact with someone else that had lice.”
The good news is new technology now makes treating head lice fast and easy. Lice Clinics of America’s AirAllé device is an FDA-cleared medical device, clinically proven to kill live lice and more than 99 percent of eggs in as little as an hour, guaranteed. To learn more or to find a clinic near you, visit www.liceclinicsofamerica.com.
With 330 clinics in 35 countries, Lice Clinics of America is the world’s largest network of professional lice treatment centers. The AirAllé medical device has treated more than 850,000 cases of head lice around the world with a success rate better than 99 percent.