A Lousey Problem: How To Detect And Treat Head Lice On Your Child

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Head lice are a common, but very unpleasant problem for school-age children. Head lice are tiny insects that can live in hair, and whilst they do not pose any serious health risks, they do cause a very itchy scalp. This can be extremely irritating and unpleasant for your child, so it is important for lice to be treated quickly and effectively.

Spotting Head Lice

The first sign of head lice is usually an itchy scalp. This may also be coupled with a rash on the back of the neck, or an unpleasant feeling of something moving in the hair. Should your child complain of an itchy scalp, or appear to be scratching excessively, you should check them for lice as soon as possible.

The only way to be certain that there is a lice infestation is to find a live louse in the hair. Unfortunately, lice are very small and thus very difficult to spot. The best way to check for live lice is detection combing. This involves using a fine-toothed detection comb (with a tooth spacing of 0.2-0.3mm) to carefully comb through hair. Examine the comb for lice, which will appear as tiny grey or brown objects, ranging from the size of a pinhead to a sesame seed. Detection combing can be carried out on wet, washed hair, or on dry hair. Wet combing is more effective, but takes longer.

Head Lice Treatment

Should you find evidence of head lice, you should treat your child as soon as possible to eliminate the problem. Chemical lotions and wet combing are the two main types of lice removal treatment. 

Chemical lotions are applied to the hair in order to kill the lice and their eggs. Available from most pharmacists, you apply the lotion to your child's hair and then leave it for a specified period of time. There are many types of lotions, so you should ask your pharmacist to recommend the best one for your child.

Wet combing involves manually removing head lice with the fine-toothed comb that was used for detection. Wash your child's hair normally and apply conditioner. Use a normal brush to untangle the hair, before using the fine-toothed comb to carefully work through all of the hair. After each stroke, wipe the comb with a tissue to remove any lice that have been collected. This should be repeated at least four times in a two-week period. At the end of the two weeks, carry out detection combing to check whether any lice are still present.