Stop Head Lice in Their Tracks

Few things give people the willies as much as head lice. Now that children are back in school, it is crucial to know how to recognize these creepy crawlers, get rid of them–and prevent them from spreading.

Common signs of head lice are an itchy scalp, irritability, sleeplessness and even a tickling sensation. But sometimes there are no symptoms, particularly with a first infestation or a light infestation.

If you suspect your child has lice, examine the head for crawling lice and nits (lice eggs), especially at the nape of the neck and behind the ears. If you find any, everyone in the home should be checked for them every couple of days. Children with live lice or nits within a quarter inch or less of the scalp need treatment.

Choose from a variety of over-the-counter or prescription medications, then apply it exactly according to instructions. A few lice usually survive an initial application, but if they move slowly than before, they are dying and there is no need to retreat. Use the nit comb included with the medication to comb out any remaining dead or live lice or nits.

Eight to 12 hours after treatment, if you see no dead head lice and they seem as active as they were before, the medicine probably isn’t working. Do not retreat your child until speaking with your pediatrician, because a different remedy may be necessary.

Monday, we’ll cover how to keep head lice from returning.

To learn more about diagnosis, treatment and prevention of head lice, contact Cohen Children’s Medical Center’s Division of General Pediatrics at 516-465-4377.

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