What Parents Need to Know
Each year millions of school-aged children in the United States get head lice. Though head lice may be a nuisance, they don't cause serious illness or carry any diseases. Also, head lice can be treated at home. The following information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) will help you check for, treat, and prevent the spread of head lice.
What are head lice?
Head lice are tiny insects. They are about the size of a sesame seed (2–3 mm long). Their bodies are usually pale and gray, but color may vary. One "lice" is called a louse. Head lice feed on tiny amounts of blood from the scalp. They usually survive less than a day if not on a person's scalp. Lice lay and attach their eggs to hair close to the scalp. The eggs and their shell casings are called nits. They are oval (about 0.8 x 0.3 mm) and usually yellow to white. Nits are attached with a sticky substance that holds them firmly in place. After the eggs hatch, the empty nits remain attached to the hair shaft. Head lice live about 28 days. They can multiply quickly, laying up to 10 eggs a day. It only takes about 12 days for newly hatched eggs to reach adulthood. This cycle can repeat itself every 3 weeks if head lice are left untreated.
Who gets head lice?
Anyone can get head lice. Head lice are most common in preschool- and elementary school–aged children. It doesn't matter how clean your hair or home may be. It doesn't matter where children and families live, play, or work.
How are head lice spread?
Head lice are crawling insects. They cannot jump, hop, or fly. The main way head lice spread is from close, prolonged head-to-head contact. There is a very small chance that head lice will spread because of sharing items such as combs, brushes, and hats.
What are symptoms of head lice?
The most common symptom of head lice is itching. It may take up to 4 weeks after lice get on the scalp for the itching to begin. Most of the itching happens behind the ears or at the back of the neck. Also, itching caused by head lice can last for weeks, even after the lice are gone. However, an itchy scalp also may be caused by eczema, dandruff, or an allergy to hair products.
How do you check for head lice?
Regular checks for head lice are a good way to spot head lice before they have time to multiply and infest your child's head.
Seat your child in a brightly lit room.
Part the hair and look at your child's scalp.
Look for crawling lice and for nits.
Live lice are hard to find. They avoid light and move quickly.
Nits will look like small white or yellow-brown specks and be firmly attached to the hair near the scalp. The easiest place to find them is at the hairline at the back of the neck or behind the ears. Nits can be confused with many other things, such as dandruff, dirt particles, or hair spray droplets. The way to tell the difference is that nits are attached while dandruff, dirt, or other particles are not.
Wet the hair. Use a fine-toothed comb to help comb out the lice or nits. Comb through your child's hair in small sections. After each comb-through, wipe the comb on a wet paper towel. Examine the scalp, comb, and paper towel carefully.
See the full article here: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/from-insects-animals/Pages/Signs-of-Lice.aspx