How to Treat Your Children for Head Lice
Head lice are a common nuisance for kids, especially kids that attend school or are in close contact with other kids. Lice are tiny, wingless parasites that feed on small amounts of blood in the scalp. They attach to the small, narrow hair shafts on the scalp, feast on the host's blood, and lay hundreds of their eggs. Kids tend to share things like hats, sporting helmets, clothing, towels, etc. making the transfer of lice between other children extremely easy.
The Signs & Symptoms
Check your child's scalp often; you will probably see lice eggs before you see any small bugs crawling around, unless the infestation is very bad. You will see eggs or egg shells still attached to the shaft of the hair. Lice are light brown or gray and about the size of a sesame seed. One of the symptoms of lice is an itchy scalp--your child may complain of itching, burning, or feeling something moving or crawling on their scalp. Areas most common to lice are behind the ears, on the scalp, or around the nape of the neck.
Treating an Infestation
The only way to get rid of lice is with medicated shampoo and combing out the lice and eggs. There are several options that are very effective, including Nix and Rid brands. There are several home remedies and natural treatments, but neither are effective. You can't "suffocate" the lice and eggs with things like olive oil, mayonnaise, or petroleum oil. You need to treat your child quickly and thoroughly to prevent spreading lice to other family members or children. Follow all package instructions carefully; keep in mind these products are insecticides!
In addition to treating your child's scalp and hair, you will need to remove the lice from anything that they may have come in contact with. Wash bedding, pillows, and clothing in very hot water, at least 130 degrees. Things that can't be washed in hot water need to be placed in an airtight bag for 2 weeks to kill the lice and eggs. Check the mattress, furniture and carpet for lice; a good, thorough vacuuming should do the trick.
Soak hair brushes, combs, hair bows, and anything else that has come in contact with the infected person in rubbing alcohol or treat with the same medicated shampoo.
How to Prevent Future Infestations
Remind your children not to share hats, scarves, sporting helmets, hair brushes, or anything else that comes in contact with other people's hair or head. All outbreaks at school should be reported to the teacher or school nurse. Children with lice should avoid contact with other kids until their lice are gone.
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