This post was written by Laura Anderson, MSN, FNP-BC, APNP, Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner at the Beloit Area Community Health Center.
Head lice is most common in young school-aged children, in fact each year millions of children in the United States get head lice. Lice can attach to the hair of anyone’s head; it doesn’t matter if the hair is clean or dirty.
Head lice are tiny bugs about the size of a poppy seed that are gray or pale in color. Head lice feed on small amounts of blood from the scalp. Lice lay and attach their eggs to hair close to the scalp and can live for about 28 days.
Head lice cannot jump or fly, and the most common way of spreading lice is through close contact or by sharing hats, combs, and other items with someone who has lice. Itching on the areas where head lice are present is the most common symptom. Most of the itching happens behind the ears or at the back of the neck.
While preventing your child from getting head lice can be a difficult and tedious task, parents should regularly check their child’s head by parting their hair and looking for any movement. Look behind the ears and along the hairline at the back of the neck where lice lay their eggs.
If you do find lice, use an over-the-counter head lice medication and follow the instructions. Do not use medication with children under the age of 2 without checking first with their healthcare provider. Never leave a child unattended when applying the medication and never place a plastic bag over their head.
Parents will also need to wash clothing, bedding, hats and towels in hot water with detergent. Do not spray your home with dangerous pesticides.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, home remedies such as mayonnaise, petroleum jelly and olive oil have not been proven effective in the treatment of head lice. If after two unsuccessful treatments with over the counter products, I recommend that parents call their child’s healthcare provider to be seen.
It is important to keep safety in mind while treating your child for head lice. If you do have any concerns call your healthcare provider for advice.