Lice are tiny, wingless insects that live and feed on the blood in the scalp of the head, the back of the neck and behind the ears. Head lice can live for up to 30 days on a human.
Causes of Head Lice
Because lice are unable to fly, they are spread through close contact with:
- Another person who has lice
- Shared clothing
- Personal items
- Household items
Head lice cause itching and inflammation. This contagious condition is common in children, especially between the ages of 3 and 12.
Symptoms of Head Lice
Head lice can usually be seen with the naked eye and may appear as lice eggs, called nits, or as adult and child lice. Head lice causes itchiness and small sores from scratching to appear on the scalp. If your child is constantly scratching or complaining of an itchy scalp, seek medical attention.
Treatment of Head Lice
An important part of treatment of head lice is removing the nits before they can hatch. Lice can be effectively treated with a medicated shampoo containing either pyrethrin or permethrin, cream rinse or lotion. These treatments are over-the-counter and directions should be closely followed in order to eliminate the infestation. Itching should stop a few days later. If the head lice are resistant to the over-the-counter treatments, a prescription solution is available. A non-medical solution of repeatedly combing wet hair with a fine-toothed metal comb or nit comb for at least two weeks, especially in children under the age of 2, is another option.
Head lice occurs commonly in schools and group activities. Children should be instructed to not share combs, brushes, towels, hats, hair ties or other personal items with another child. Treatment and prevention options are available from your physician.