The dreaded words we all wish to avoid with every fiber in our being…”Your child has lice.”
The words themselves seem to crawl across the page, no? I mean bugs that grow in hair…on our child’s head? That can then somehow get on our own head? And LAY EGGS?
Wow, that’s alot to process. But, not to fear, Parkside is here with some practical advice about lice…
First Up, What is Lice Exactly?
There are actually three types of lice but the most common one that we see in children is head lice. As you’d expect, the head lice (tiny, wingless parasitic insects) burrow and hide in hair. They are able to take on the color of the hair they inhabit which can make them quite difficult to identify.
Head lice lay nits (eggs) which are a bit easier to spot as they are yellowish in color and typically collect around the ears and the nape of the neck. A female can lay up to eight eggs a day and the eggs hatch 1-2 weeks after being laid.
Despite popular opinion, head lice do not actually hop or jump but spread by crawling from one person’s hair to another. Head lice only inhabit human hair and are often spread through children between the ages of 3-11 years old (likely because of the close quarters that child care and school inevitably create at this age).
- Itchy scalp
- Crawling Sensation
- Patches of nits that are attached to the base of the hair
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Spotting an insect itself in the hair
Thankfully, while head lice is VERY annoying, it is not a sign of poor hygiene nor does it cause long term damage to your child or to yourself. That being said, when your child gets lice, you want it gone.
What Should You Do if Your Child Has Lice?
Of course feel free to call us if you believe your child was exposed to lice or you have spotted a live creature in your little one’s hair. However, before we even see you in our office, we will likely recommend following these three steps…
1. Eliminate live lice
You can use chemical treatments that can be found at the grocery store or drug store. Many of these items have 1% permethrin as a cream rinse and are effective most of the time.
Typically, these treatments need to be applied to dry hair since wet hair can dilute the chemicals in the treatment. Apply for the full amount of time recommended by the manufacturer. Repeat the treatment in 7-10 days since the treatments are effective at killing live lice but they may not always kill all the eggs.
2. Comb out the nits
A time consuming task to be sure but a necessary one nonetheless. Most treatment options include a comb and you and your child will feel better knowing the nits are removed. Combing the eggs out will also prevent your child from becoming reinfested from any eggs that were not killed during the first round of treatment.
3. Prevent lice from spreading
You do not have to throw away items but you do have to do some deep cleaning…
Wash clothes, towels, hats, and bed linens in hot water and dry on high heat. Make sure to also soak all combs and brushes in boiling hot water for up to 10 minutes. Vacuum all furniture, carpet, car seats and fabrics the child came in contact with within 48 hours before starting treatment. Items that your child has been in very close contact with that can’t be washed (think stuffed animals and toys) can be placed in a plastic bag for 2 weeks to ensure any live lice on the object have died.
Be sure to check other members of the household for lice and if lice or nits are seen, follow these steps for them as well. Truth be told, I usually have all members of a household treat themselves at the same time to just to air on the side of caution and hopefully cultivate a lice free home as quickly as possible.
If you have followed these three steps for your family and are still seeing lice, please reach out to us. There are prescription options for head lice treatment that your pediatrician may prescribe but these are often recommended after trying over the counter treatments.
As always, we are here for you and your family—lice or no lice. If your child has the crawling creatures on their scalp, keep calm, comb away, and clean while listening to soft serene music (or Justin Beiber, whatever works).
Until next time,
Dr. Erin Bhatia
Parkside Provider, LEGO building boy mom, and preoccupied by all things interior design