Checking for Head Lice – signs & symptoms

Most parents have experienced the note or email from the School saying head lice have been found. But should we be really concerned?

Common in school age children but potentially affecting anyone, lice are annoying but not serious. The head louse is a tiny wingless insect. It can only live on humans (lice die within 24 hours if not on the body) and feeds on miniscule amounts of blood drawn from the scalp.

As it cannot jump or fly but only crawl, it is spread is by direct hair to hair contact. The typical symptom is an itchy scalp.

Adult lice are gray or tan insects the size of a sesame seed on the scalp whilst Nits (lice eggs) are tiny white or brown dots usually attached to hair near the scalp. They have a dandruff-like appearance however they can’t be “shaken” off.

To find them comb hair with any conditioner and then use a fine toothcomb. Wipe the conditioner from the comb onto a paper towel. Look for eggs or lice. Do this through all the hair a few times.

Treatment is removing lice and nits from the hair. You can use the conditioner method (described above) every other day till none have been found for ten days. There are also specific head lice treatments (both synthetic and organic) that can be used. Follow the directions on the pack. Wash pillowcases in hot water. Family members need only be treated if lice or nits are found on them.