Common signs of lice & what to do if you encounter them
Having the opportunity to watch you child grow and learn in school is one of the most rewarding experiences for a parent. As your child learns more and more about the world each day, they are also exposed to a variety of experiences and people. Being exposed to new people means many things, including the potential for exposure to head lice. The truth of the matter - despite a great amount of anxiety surrounding head lice infestations in schools - is that head lice are harmless to humans. Outside of some itching, head lice are just a minor inconvenience for children and families. Staying educated on what to look for and how to treat head lice in children is a great way to maintain your sanity if lice do strike your household. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of common signs of head lice so you know what to look for if your child catches lice.
Itchiness is easily the most common symptom of lice. In young children, you’ll begin to notice more scratching than normal in their head region. Since children are not always good at describing pain and other discomfort, it may be difficult to figure out why they are itchy because the source of the itching could be a variety of different ailments, including allergic reaction, dry skin, mosquito bites, or even just a nervous habit. If you notice your child scratching their head more than normal - or just their body - it may be a good idea to do a lice check in their hair while combing or brushing at night.
For children old enough to describe their discomfort more precisely, many children will report feeling a tickling on their scalp as if something is moving or crawling in their hair. This seems like a no brainer (lice, duh!), and you should check their head immediately for lice. Upon hearing of a lice outbreak (at school or on television, for instance) your child may be hyper-vigilant and feel this tickling, but it is best to check as soon as possible.
If your child does not notify you right away of their itching and discomfort, they may be scratching at louse bites without knowing it. As mentioned, these bites are harmless, but scratching them with dirty hands and fingernails can allow bacteria to enter the bite when scratched open. These sores from scratching can cause extra discomfort or even become infected. If these sores arise, they will typically heal on their own once the lice is treated. However, for sores that become infected, it may be best to contact a doctor who can prescribe your child and antibiotic to treat their infection.
With as much discomfort as lice can cause, you can expect some irritability from your children. Of course, irritability can stem from a variety of things - stressors at school, the onset of puberty, or problems with friends - so it’s best to keep an open line of communication with your children regarding the source of their irritability. If your child then communicates with you that they are very uncomfortable or itchy, it may be time to do a quick lice check on them.
We would all struggle to sleep if we felt a constant tickle on our heads or had tiny bugs crawling on us and our bed sheets. Children (who have extremely sensitive sleep schedules to begin with) can be extremely disturbed by the lack of sleep that head lice may cause, meaning parents should pay attention to their child’s sleep schedule, noting any changes. If you have found that your child has lice, make sure to wash their bed sheet and fabrics thoroughly and machine dry them on high to kill any lice or louse eggs (otherwise known as nits) that may be present in their bed sheets.
A huge source of discomfort caused by lice stems from louse bites in general, not just the itching and tinglings from the lice being present. Lice bite the scalp and surrounding areas because they need blood to survive (making them a parasite). As mentioned, these bites are harmless to humans, but can cause sores on the head, neck and shoulders that are itchy and uncomfortable for children. If you begin to see sores appear on your child’s head and neck region, it is best to check for lice and take appropriate actions accordingly.
Nits, or louse eggs, will begin to appear on your child’s head if the lice are not found and treated quickly. Much like lice, nits are harmless to humans, but can make the stresses that a lice infestation causes bigger and more difficult to manage. Nits look like small white specks in the hair. They may look a bit like dandruff but are less flake-like, giving them a distinct look. If you find these white specks in your child’s hair, it is best to contact a professional lice removal company as soon as possible.
If you find head lice on your child, it is important to not panic. Though stressful, finding head lice is only a minor inconvenience that can be easily fixed. Remind your child that having lice is not gross or their fault, then contact a professional lice removal service to ensure that the lice infestation is treated thoroughly and properly. Hair Whisperers, professional lice removers in Southern California for more than ten years, are a no-brainer for parents looking for fast, professional service. From there, it is up to your discretion to notify your child’s school and prevent a further outbreak if you see necessary.