Head lice infestation is the invasion of the hair and scalp by the common head louse. Lice are scavengers that feed on the excreted body fluids of their host humans, but do not burrow into skin. As common as they are, lice very rarely cause other diseases, and their presence has nothing to do with a lack of cleanliness. Infected children however, may be quickly labeled by their peers if singled out which can lead to social stigmatization. Head lice are also very contagious and difficult to kill.
The condition affects between 6 and 12 million people annually in the U.S. alone, and girls are more commonly infected than boys.The key is prevention and early detection in order to minimize the impact of the infection on your child, friends and family. The following are the signs and symptoms of head lice infestation.
1. Itchy Scalp- One of the first signs of a louse infestation is a regular or constant itch. The source of itching is the allergic response to the lice bites, which suck blood from the scalp which triggers an itch reaction to their saliva and feces. But itching can take a while to start because your child might not be very allergic.
2. Bugs found-We’ve all had a bug in our hair or on our skin, or been annoyed by a ‘ghost itch’ in our hair. The almost undetectable feeling of a bug crawling around the skin or scalp freaks most people out, especially youngsters. A child’s complaint of a creepy scalp might mean she simply has some sand or a curious ant wandering around. But the creeps may also be a sign of lice infestation. Many head lice infestations begin 3 - 4 weeks before the itching begins so the first sign might be a feeling of something moving around on your scalp like ants or a mosquito.
3. Fever or swollen lymph nodes- If a louse infestation goes undetected, for example in cases where your child has a high tolerance to the louse allergy, a staph infection can result. In severe cases of infection, lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin may become swollen and tender to the touch. Do a thorough examination of lymph nodes with your child or make an appointment to see your family doctor to confirm and treat a suspected infection.
4. Family member has it- If a friend or family member becomes afflicted with lice, your chances of catching it multiply tenfold. And like dominos, once one falls to lice the whole family is very likely to get it, if not caught and contained quickly. Once a family or friend is even suspected of having lice, the scalp of every member of the family should be checked immediately. Various over the counter shampoos and topical ointments are available to eliminate lice and if the condition persists, a visit to the doctor for a prescribed solution might be necessary.
5. Severe Scalp Irritation- Lice feed on human sweat, skin and blood, causing an allergic itch in the host. A combination of insect bites and scratching can lead to a scalp irritation and inflammation if not treated. Redness and swelling on the scalp will almost always be visible with a lice infestation but may or may not be accompanied by pain or stinking. These human-loving parasites are often found around the nape of the neck and the ears.
If you notice any of the above symptoms, give us a call ASAP to schedule a head check and discuss treatment options. Head lice doesn't have to be complicated. Less us take the aggravation away!