If you have children in the house, especially young ones, it’s time to watch for head lice. Although these pests are fairly harmless, parents never like finding them on their children.
What you should know
Lice are more easily spread during cooler weather because children are typically closer to one another. When children share infested winter coats and hats or combs, brushes and hair ornaments, lice can spread more readily. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 6 to 12 million cases affect U.S. children ages 3-11 each year.
Easily mistaken for dandruff, head lice are tiny parasites that are the size of a sesame seed. The nymphs are even smaller and more difficult to see. Because lice are small, move around and flee light, they aren’t easy for an inexperienced person to identify. On closer inspection, however, you may find the tiny nits (eggs) cemented to the hair within a quarter-inch of the base of the hair shaft. If your child complains of an itchy scalp, or you see him or her scratching more than usual, take a closer look. Concentrate on the hair at the back of the head and behind the ears. Sometimes a severe infestation can extend to the eyebrows and eyelashes. If you discover lice, it’s time to spring into action.
If you’re not sure, see a doctor for a diagnosis.
How lice are treated
Once lice are discovered, it’s important to check everyone in the household, along with anyone who may be in close contact with your children. Some experts believe all household members should be treated at once to avoid spreading these parasites. A doctor can offer the best insight for your family. Some preparations kill the eggs and may require only one application, while others must be repeated after all eggs have been hatched but before the young lice can produce more eggs. Follow the package directions and your doctor’s instructions. Check the hair regularly for several weeks after treatment to be sure all lice are gone.
Visit cdc.gov.parasites/lice/head for more information.