The bane of many parents, the head louse is a tiny, wingless parasitic insect that lives among human hairs and feeds on extremely small amounts of blood drawn from the scalp. Although they may sound gross, lice (the plural of louse) are a very common problem, especially for kids ages 3 years to 12 years (girls more often than boys).
Lice aren’t dangerous and they don’t spread disease.
Saying Goodbye to Lice
If your head feels very itchy, tell an adult as soon as possible. This is especially true if you know that other kids in your class or school have had lice. Don’t wait around — the more time the lice have to lay nits, the itchier you will be!
Often a parent or school nurse can recognize head lice just by looking for nits in the hair. Some kids’ parents will take them to the doctor so the doctor can check to see if lice are there.
If a kid has lice, an adult will need to buy a special medicated shampoo, cream, or lotion that kills lice. An adult will need to apply the medicine and follow the directions. Part of the treatment is combing your hair with a fine-tooth comb to remove the nits. The shampoo, cream, or lotion usually kills the lice right away. The itching should go away within a few days, but treatment may need to be repeated in 7 to 10 days to kill any new lice that may have hatched since the first treatment.
Do not use a hair dryer on your hair after washing with the medicated shampoo, lotion, or cream because they can contain flammable ingredients. You don’t want your hair catching on fire.
Although lice can live for only 1 to 2 days off a person’s head, it’s a good idea for an adult to wash all your bedding, hats, clothing, and stuffed animals in hot water. Or he or she can seal these things in airtight bags for 10 days. That also will kill the lice and their eggs.
Vacuuming the carpets, upholstery, and car seats will take care of any lice that fell off before treatment. Combs, brushes, and hair accessories need to be soaked in hot water, washed with medicated shampoo, or thrown away. Sometimes it is difficult to get rid of the lice, so if that happens to you, have your parent talk to the doctor. There are stronger medicines and other treatments that they may decide to use.
Life Without Lice
Sure, lice aren’t so nice, but there are things you can do to keep them away. To help prevent lice:
- If your friend has lice, don’t give the lice any chance to spread to you. Avoid putting your heads together or sharing stuff that could contain lice, such as hats or combs.
- Don’t try on hats that belong to other kids.
- Never share a comb, brush, barrettes, or other hair accessories. Use your own, and don’t lend them to anyone else.
- Always use your own sleeping bag and pillow when sleeping away from home.
Sharing is usually a great idea — except when you’re sharing lice!