How to get rid of lice: treatment and prevention

Head lice infestations are very common in children, especially when they are of school age. Children tend to play close together, which makes the transmission of these insects easier. However, this is an issue that doesn’t discriminate, and it doesn’t mean that it’s a matter of bad hygiene. Anyone that’s in contact with lice can be infected. For parents, learning how to get rid of lice is very important, since just one person with lice can get the whole family in the same condition.

Lice begin with an egg, also called “nit”, which is very small (about the size of a pinhead), and of a brownish or yellowish color. Usually, these can be mistaken by dandruff, so parents should be careful. After 7 to 10 days, the eggs hatch and become nymphs, which after 9 to 12 days mature into adult lice.

The first step to effectively get rid of this is to learn to identify the different signs and symptoms of a lice infestation, these are:

-Itchy scalp which causes the urgent need to scratch it, sometimes until the scalp becomes irritated

-Presence of nits, that can be seen attached to the hair

-Crawling sensation in the scalp

-Visible bugs (these is after the nits have hatched when the lice are active)

-Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, which could be a sign of a bacterial infection

-Pink eye

Out of these symptoms, the most definite one to confirm the infestation is the presence of nits or the bug itself. To do this, you can follow a simple process: first, wet your child’s hair, this will make it easier to see the bugs; then tell your child to sit under a bright light; finally, separating the hair into sections, slowly comb the hair outward. In these few steps, you will able to expose the bugs or their eggs.

If you have confirmed that your child has lice, then you can follow up with one of the recommended treatments to get rid of it.

Treatments to get rid of lice

Shampoos and creams: over-the-counter products

These treatments are called pediculicides, and often they’re available without a prescription, so you can freely use them at home. They can be found in drugstores or even some grocery stores. These products often work slowly, since they require to wash the hair, and usually work by killing the bugs and the eggs.

To use this type of treatments safely, take these few tips into consideration:

-Make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle.

-Do not use more than one product at once, since mixing treatments can be dangerous.

-Try not to use this while taking a bath, since these products are just for the head. These products should be applied when the child is fully dressed, so the exposure to skin is minimal.

-Check the hair after a few hours of treatment, and if it’s not working, you can try talking to a dermatologist to find a better option. Sometimes a different treatment is needed, but it should be applied without medical advice.

-When using these type of treatments, don’t forget to comb the hair to remove all the lice and eggs from the head, even though some products don’t require combing.

Prescription products:

This type of lice treatments need a prescription to be bought, so it’s mandatory to visit the doctor first to purchase them. There are different types of prescription lice treatments for all ages and with different specifications according to the person’s need.

After using the products, keep an eye out for any irritation or burning sensation. Oftentimes these products can cause skin irritation, but in case of being too severe, it’s recommended to go to the doctor.

How to prevent lice in children

-Make sure to thoroughly clean the bedding, towels, and rugs regularly. These items can get easily infested and lice can live in them for short periods of time while looking for a suitable host.

-If you notice any sign of lice on your child’s head or body, get it checked immediately.

-If you live with someone who has lice, it’s important that you also get checked for it. lice are highly contagious and don’t discriminate.

-If your child has long hair, make sure to keep it in a ponytail or a braid to prevent lice in case there’s an outbreak at school.

-Don’t share brushes, combs, towels, or hair accessories of any sort (helmets, hats, beanies) in case of a lice infestation.

-Until the school is free of lice, tell your child to stop all head-to-head contact with other kids. Children usually tend to play close together, making it easier for lice to spread.

-Lice infestations are difficult to prevent and control since the bugs spread too fast and usually lay lots of eggs quite rapidly. However, following the steps above could help a lot to contain, and even avoid, a lice infestation in your house.