Itchy headNothing is certain but death and taxes… and head lice, if you have a young child. Head lice are minute parasites that attach themselves to the base of the hair shaft and feed off the child’s scalp and blood. They lay tiny eggs (called nits) that stick to the base of the hair until they hatch into lice. Lice can only be transferred by direct contact between one child and another, and the sharing of clothing such as hats, scarfs, hair clips, brushes or combs, jackets, plush toys, etc.

How to tell if your child has lice

If your child experiences an itchy scalp or has sores on her head, it’s possible that these symptoms are caused by dandruff or lice. To check for lice, you need to part the hair in small sections and, under a magnifying glass, literally search with a fine-tooth comb near the base of the hair and on the scalp. The nits will be quite firmly attached to the hair, while the lice may crawl – they don’t like light, so they will move to get away from it.

How to treat lice

There’s a special treatment called pediculicide that’s used to treat head lice. It comes in a variety of formats, but the easiest to use is the shampoo, or a topical application directly onto the hair. Because there is no standard treatment, it’s important to follow the directions on the box. You would do well to spend some time each day physically removing lice and nits from your child’s hair. This needs to continue for up to 10 days after treating your child’s head with the shampoo. Wash all the clothing and soft items your child may have come in contact with, to ensure there’s no repeat-infestation.

Can lice be prevented?

Not entirely, no. Like colds and flu, physical trauma, or allergies, lice cannot be 100% prevented. You can take steps to minimise the risk of your child getting lice, but it’s good to know that lice are easily treatable and pose no major threat to your child’s health.

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