Head lice are tiny parasitic insects that live inside a child hairs.
How to check if your child has lice?
You may be able to see the lice or lice eggs by parting your child’s hair into small sections and checking for them with a fine-tooth comb. Use a torch or bright light to help spot them.
When to get medical help?
- If your child is constantly scratching on the head or scalp
- If your child complains of an itchy scalp that won’t go away
Not all children have the classic symptoms of head lice and some can be symptom-free.
Treatments for children under 2 months old:
- Do not use medicated lice treatments
- Remove the nits and lice by hand using a fine-tooth comb on your child’s wet, conditioned hair every 3 to 4 days for 3 weeks after the last live louse was seen
- Wetting the hair beforehand is recommended because it temporarily immobilizes the lice and the conditioner makes it easier to get a comb through the hair
- Make sure you remove nits carefully every week for at least 3 weeks in a row, and watch your child closely to see if any live lice return
Treatment for children over 2 months old:
- You can use treatment including special shampoo, cream rinse, or lotion to kill the lice (check with your pharmacist which are the suitable options)
- For very resistant lice, an oral medication might be prescribed by your doctor
Make sure any medication is safe
While some shampoos are safe for children as young as 2 months, other medicines are only safe for children 2 years and older. Follow the directions on the product label exactly because these products are insecticides. Applying too much medication, or using it too often, can increase the risk of harm.
After treatment you can use a fine-tooth comb to comb out the nits. You may need to repeat treatment in 7 to 10 days to kill any newly hatched nits.
How to prevent your child from getting lice
- Tell your child to try to avoid head-to-head contact with other children.
- Tell your child not to share combs, brushes, hats or other personal care items with anyone else.
- Tell your child not to lie on bedding, pillows, and carpets that have recently been used by someone with lice.
How to prevent reinfestation at home?
- Every 3 or 4 days, examine members of your family. Then, treat any who are found to have lice or nits.
- Wash all bed linens and clothing that’s been recently worn by anyone in your home who’s infested in very hot (55°C) water. After put them in the sun to dry
- Dry clean anything that can’t be washed (like stuffed animals). Or put them in airtight bags for at least 3 days.
- Vacuum carpets and any upholstered furniture (in your home or car), then throw away the vacuum cleaner bag.
- Soak hair-care items like combs, headbands, and brushes in rubbing alcohol or medicated shampoo for 1 hour. You also can wash them in hot water or just throw them away.
Things you shouldn’t do
- If your child is 2 months old or younger, you should not use medicated lice treatments. You’ll need to remove the nits and lice by hand or use a fine comb.
- Don’t use a hairdryer on your child’s hair after applying the scalp treatments because some contain flammable ingredients.
- Don’t use a conditioner before applying lice medication
- Don’t wash your child’s hair for 1 to 2 days after using a medicated treatment
- Don’t use the same medication more than three times on one person. If it doesn’t work, contact your doctor
- Don’t use more than one head lice medication at a time
- Don’t use essential oils (such as tea tree oil) to treat lice
- Don’t use chemicals such as gasoline on the hair. These are highly flammable and should never be used to treat lice.
Dr. Piyawut Kreetapirom, MD. (1 July 2020)