How to Identify Head Lice

Head Lice

Do head lice have your child scratching her head? It’s estimated 10 percent of the school-age children have lice. Use these tips to find out if your child is one of them:

1. Look for scratching. Periods of increased scalp-scratching are good times to check for head lice. While only 25 percent of people itch due to an allergic reaction to their bites, almost everyone can feel the tickling sensation of the bugs crawling on their scalp.
But remember, heads just itch sometimes. Don’t assume itching always equals lice. Remember, only a quarter of people with lice itch their heads, but half experience phantom itch at their mention. (Are you scratching now?)

2. Identify the nits. Take a closer look for the nits, or lice eggs, first. The nits are perfectly egg-shaped specs, smaller than a poppy seed, and stuck onto a hair shaft. They range in color from yellow to brown to white, and often are found behind the ears or at the nape of the neck. Since they are glued to the hair shaft, they will not move. If you come across a suspicious spec, give it a sideways flick with your finger. Dandruff will fall away — nits will not.

3. Search for bugs. Lice are fast, well-camouflaged and will avoid the light, so don’t get overwhelmed burrowing for bugs. If there are nits, there are bugs. If you must catch one, part the hair diagonally across the crown of the head and look quickly. Repeat randomly a few times. and you may catch a glimpse of a louse scurrying away.

Still not sure? Consult a professional, contact the school nurse, or ask a friend who has dealt with head lice before. If lice are found, it is important to inform your child’s school. By alerting anyone who may have been exposed, you reduce the chances of your child getting lice again.

Finally, removing lice from your child’s (and possibly yours, too!) head and your home can be a arduous task, involving shampooing the hair (with special products) and combing out the nits, as well as laundering all bedding and plush sleep toys. A professional can simplify the process.