Most children will get infected with head lice at least once. They are small wingless insects that only live in people's hair. Lice lay their eggs (nits), at the root of the hair. You usually see the eggs rather than an actual louse. Lice does NOT come from being dirty and is a normal part of being a kid. Head lice is quite common in schools and daycare centres as it is easily spread amongst groups of children.
How to prevent head lice:
- Check your child's hair and scalp regularly for signs of lice and their eggs.
- Don't let your child use other children's combs or brushes, or wear their hats or jackets.
- If your child has lice, make sure every other person in your household is treated as well.
- Don't have physical contact with a person who has lice.
Here is a quick checklist to see if your child has head lice:
- Does your child's head itch really badly?
- Does your child have tiny red bite marks on the neck or scalp area?
- Does your child have a scaly rash on the scalp?
- Do you see lice on your child's bed or clothes?
If you answered yes to these questions, check their heads very carefully for lice and eggs. Head lice are yellow-gray parasites that are smaller than a grain of rice with 6 legs. You can easily spot them at the nape of the neck or near the ears. Their eggs look like whitish grains of sand stuck onto the hair near the scalp. You'll see them by combing through your child's hair.
When your child has head lice:
- Treat them at home right away. Wash everything that your child may have touched in hot water with disinfecting detergent (sheets, blankets, pillowcases, clothes, towels, combs and brushes).
- Use medicated shampoos or lotions from the chemist to kill lice and nits and use the comb in the package to pick out the dead lice and eggs. These products can be dangerous if used wrongly, so follow the directions carefully.
- If you don't want to use chemicals, get rid of the lice by soaking your child's hair and scalp in olive oil. The lice “drown” in the oil. You also have to comb the hair carefully with a fine-toothed comb to get the nits (eggs) out.
- You can also soak your child's hair in a mixture of equal amounts of water and vinegar. Comb through with a fine-toothed comb to get the nits (eggs) out. Follow this with a shower and shampoo. Keep your child at home until you have treated them at least once.
- If you can't get rid of the lice, see your doctor.
- Notify your child's school. If a child has head lice, they may not return to school until they are completely free of lice or nits. You may need to get a certificate to prove this from your clinic or doctor.