What are Head Lice
Head lice are tiny insect that suck and feed on blood. They feed on human blood several times a day, and live near the scalp; they can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes.
Symptoms of headlice include:
- Extreme itchiness of the scalp, neck, and ears (caused by an allergic reaction to their bites)
- Tickling feeling, like something moving in the hair
- Sores and scabs on the head, from scratching
- Finding lice on the scalp
- Nits (lice eggs) on hair shafts, near the base
Head lice is usually diagnosed by finding adult lice, or nymphs (baby lice), on the scalp or in the hair, or finding nits near the base of the hair shafts.
They can be difficult to see because of their small size and their dislike of light (they’re more active at night), but a magnifying glass and fine-tooth comb usually do the trick.
Head lice are contagious, and the biggest cause of their spread is close head-to-head contact.
This is why it’s common to see head lice among children, due their close contact during play.
Other ways head lice can spread include:
- Sharing personal items (like a comb) with someone with head lice
- Using a fabric item (like a hat) after someone with head lice
- Upholstered furniture, like couches, bedding, towels after someone with head lice used them
Head lice are not known to spread disease, but are contagious, and should be treated quickly upon diagnosis. Most treatments will need to be done twice; once to remove the live lice and nymphs, and again a weeks later to remove any eggs that may have hatched.
Common head lice treatment methods include:
- Lotions or shampoos for lice removal
- Fine tooth combing
The person with lice should be sure to avoid close contact with others, and make a point of vacuuming their home and furniture, and washing and drying their clothes with heat.
When to See a Medical Doctor
If you or your child have lice, it’s best to speak to a doctor as quickly as possible to begin treatment, and lower the chances of infecting family and other close people.
Head lice medications, lotions, and shampoos are can be sold over-the-counter and by prescription only. A doctor can help assess the severity of the head lice problem, and recommend the best treatment option to go with.