Head lice are small grey insects that infest the scalp and head. Anyone can get lice; it does not mean that you are untidy, impoverished, or unclean. Typically, you get lice from another person already infected through use of their comb, brush, head covering, or shared linen.
Head lice may be difficult to see as they scramble around your head looking for areas to feed. But you may notice their egg casings, called nits, attached to the base of your hair follicles. The most common place to first see nits is at the hairline right above the neck. Sometimes you may confuse the nits with dandruff, but as compared to dandruff, the nits will be “glued” to the shaft of hair and will not come off easily. You may have a lot of scalp itching because of the lice and its nits.
There are many ways to treat head lice. The over-the-counter (OTC) remedies like Nix, Pronto Plus, Rid, and A-200 are usually effective. We now recommend treating three times; the first day you notice, seven days later, and again 13 to 15 days later. This way we are able to treat any lice that may have hatched from the nits between treatments.
You should also get the nits out of the hair. Use a fine-tooth comb to remove as many as possible. You should try to do this each day. They can be loosened using a mixture of vinegar and water. Some schools have a “no nit rule” before returning to school.
Since head lice cannot live for more than 24 hours off a human body, you should vacuum your child’s room, or any other contacted room. Combs and brushes should be thrown away or soaked for at least an hour in the OTC lice medication. Linens and clothing should be washed at the hottest water setting. Stuffed animals, or other non-washables, should be sealed in a plastic bag for 2 weeks. Fumigation is not needed.
You typically do not need to treat everyone in the house unless you see evidence of lice infestations – nits, itching, rashes.