Head lice: How to treat

Head lice: How to treat


If you or your child has head lice,
the very thought can be emotionally disturbing. The good news is that you cannot get any diseases from the bugs, and you can get rid of lice with proper treatment. Follow these tips from dermatologists to check for and treat lice. First, see if your child has lice by sitting your child under a bright light. Separate hair into sections, and carefully search each section. Look for eggs — called nits — that look like tiny seeds attached to the hair. In contrast to dandruff, the nits cannot be easily removed from the hair. The nits can be yellow, brown or tan if the lice haven’t hatched. Live nits are clear and found within an inch of the scalp. Lice and nits are more commonly found in the hair behind the ears and around the nape of the neck.
If you or your child has lice, follow these tips: Use a shampoo or lotion specially formulated to kill lice.
This usually involves lathering the shampoo into the hair and leaving it on for a few minutes before rinsing it out. Many products are effective, but not all are used in the same way. Be sure to follow the directions. After rinsing, comb through the wet hair with the lice comb that comes with the shampoo. The teeth on these combs are much closer together than regular combs and more likely to remove the lice and nits. Avoid shampooing the hair for a few days. This lets the medication continue to work. Since lice shampoos are often more successful at killing the lice than the nits, the directions may suggest using the product again within 7 to ten days. This helps to kill nits that have hatched since the last treatment. Continue to comb through the hair once a day for several weeks to be sure you remove the lice and their nits. This is often easier to do with wet hair. Use hot water to wash clothes, sheets, pillowcases, blankets and anything the person’s head may have touched. Seal non-washable items such as stuffed animals in a plastic bag for several weeks. Vacuum your carpets and furniture. Do not use lice-killing sprays as chemicals can cause more harm than the lice. Lice don’t live very long off the human head, so your best bet is to spend most of your energy combing through the hair. Lice don’t fly or jump. They often spread when kids put their heads together, wear each other’s hats or scarves, or share combs or brushes. Remind your child to avoid sharing those things. If you have questions or concerns about caring for your hair, you should make an appointment to see a dermatologist. To find a dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org.

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