Head Lice is a Real Itch
February brings snowy weather to most of the United States, winter sports like wrestling are in full swing, and if you have school-aged children, the late winter month also means an increased risk of head lice. While lice isn't 100% preventable, there are steps that can be taken to decrease the chances of an infestation.
- Never share items that touch the head like hats, brushes or towels.
- Avoid head-to-head contact.
- Keep belongings, especially upper body clothing out of shared lockers and closets.
This is sound information, but it doesn't always stick, especially as kids are rushing to school, sharing lockers, playing together at recess, and are in close quarters five days a week.
So what should you do if your child is one of the anticipated 6 million cases of lice this year?
The American Academy of Dermatologists makes a few recommendations
- Use products specially formulated to kill the lice. This typically involves applying a shampoo or lotion into the hair, leaving it in for a set period, then rinsing thoroughly.
- When it comes time to rinse hair, you should use the lice comb that comes with your product. Narrowly spaced teeth on these combs are designed to remove lice and nits.
- Don't wash your hair right away. Avoiding shampooing allows the medication to work. Lice shampoos are great at killing lice but less effective against nits (their eggs). Follow the directions on your packaging – it may suggest you repeat treatment within 7-10 days. This will kill any lice that have hatched since the last treatment.
- Keep using that special comb. Continue to comb through hair with the narrow-toothed comb at least once a day for the several weeks (this is much easier to do with wet hair).
- Wash everything. Using hot water, make sure all clothing, bedding, linens and any other items that may have come into contact with the patient are washed. Stuffed animals, pillows, and other non-washable items should be sealed in plastic bags for several weeks, giving the lice time to die off.
- Vacuum. Make sure you have vacuumed the floor, furniture, and drapes. Avoid lice-killing sprays. The chemicals in these products can be more harmful than the lice themselves.
If the condition persists for several weeks or if you notice severe scalp irritation or infection, make an appointment to see a dermatologist. Sometimes, prescription treatment is needed.
You can avoid long wait times and spreading the lice to your vehicle by taking your appointment online through DermatologistOnCall.com. Login in, tell us about your lice and send us a few photos of the affected areas. Within 24 hours, you'll have a customized treatment plan to help rid you of these unwanted invaders for good. Any prescriptions will be sent directly to the pharmacy of your choice.
Head lice bugging your family? Dermatologists' tips for getting rid of lice. American Academy of Dermatology. February, 2013. https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/1d68bb5e-a287-4b87-8349-c323eb2d8c93