A tiny, wingless parasitic that lives among the human hair, is what is called as the head louse. It feeds on tiny amounts of blood drawn from the scalp and is pretty common among children. There arises no doubt that how tough it is to get rid of them but they are not at all dangerous. However, your child may suffer from excessive itching sometimes and scratching can lead to infection. Head lice can spread from person to person, thereby it is best to treat this quickly once you get aware of them.
Head Lice in Children: Parents Need to Know
Symptoms of head lice in children
Head lice are tiny but can be easily seen by the naked eye. Here are some of the symptoms you need to look for:
These appear as tiny yellow, tan, or brown dots before they hatch. Nits are laid on hair shafts by the lice very much closer to the scalp because the temperature is perfect to keep them warm. These may look like dandruff but can not be removed by brushing or shaking. It takes up to 2 weeks for the lice eggs to hatch after they are laid. The left-out shell remains attached to the hair and appears white or clear after hatching. It thus becomes easier for one to spot them during this time.
Adult lice and nymphs
The adult lice are greyish-white or tan. It takes about 1 to 2 weeks for the nymphs to become adult lice after they hatch. If adequate treatment is not provided, the process is repeated about every 3 weeks. Head lice can survive off the scalp for up to 2 days because it feeds on the blood several times a day.
Scratching occurs due to the reaction to the saliva of the lice. It is not necessary that the itching will start right away, instead it depends on how sensitive a child’s skin is to the lice. It may also take several weeks for some kids to start scratching.
Small red bumps
Excessive scratching may cause a bacterial infection which may cause swollen lymph glands and red, tinder skin. Your doctor may recommend you oral antibiotics in order to treat the infection if this is the case.
It is actually easier to be able to see the lice using a fine-tooth comb by parting your child’s hair into small sections. You can check this on the scalp, behind the ears. These are rarely to be found on eyelashes or eyebrows.
It is thus important for you to see a doctor in case your child shows any of the above symptoms. However, not al children may show the classic symptoms of head lice. Some can be symptom free as well.
Are Lice Infectious?
Yes, they are highly infectious because they can spread quickly from person to person. As stated above, lice cannot fly or jump but have specially adapted claws that enables them to crawl and cling to the hair. Although, head to head contact is the primary cause for its spread but other factors like bed linens, sharing clothes, combs, hats or brushes may also stand out to be one of the reasons. But why are kids more prone to catching lice? This is because kids generally share personal items and also tend to have close physical contact with each other.
Treatment for head lice in children
If your child has developed head lice, he/she may be recommended to use a medicated shampoo, cream rinse or some lotion that can kill the lice. However, these medications will depend highly on what all treatments have earlier been tried. It may take several days for the treatment to stop the itching and in case of a very resistant lice, an oral medication may also be prescribed.
Apart form this, you have to make sure that the prescribed medicine is safe for your child according to his age. Over the counter shampoos are safe for kids who are as young as 2 months whereas other medicines are not recommended for kids who are less than 2 years of age. So, you will need to have the confirmation regarding the same from your doctor. For kids who are younger than 2 months old, do not use nay medicated lice treatments. For them, you will need to remove the lice by hand.
Also, these products are insecticides so it is important for you to follow the directions a stated on the product. Applying or using the product too often or more than what is prescribed may prove to be detrimental. Not only this, but this may also fail to provide any results.
Prevention for head lice in children
Given below are some of the ways that can help to prevent lice re-infestation. Read below:
- Vacuum carpets and other furniture in your home or car and throw away the bag.
- Soak any hair care items in medicated shampoo for an hour including hair ties or bands, headbands, combs, barrettes etc.
- Go for dry cleaning in case of anything that cannot be washed, for instance stuffed animals.
- Wash all bed linens or clothing that has been recently used or worn by any person in the family who is infested and then put all of it in the dryer for at least 20 minutes.
- Do not make use of a shampoo or a conditioner before applying the medication.
- Do not make use of more than one medication at a time.
- Do not use kerosene or any other chemicals that are highly flammable on your child’s hair to treat lice.