The head louse is a tiny, wingless parasitic insect that lives among human hairs and feeds on extremely small amounts of blood drawn from the scalp. Although they may sound gross, lice (the plural of louse) are a very common problem, especially for kids ages 3 years to 12 years (girls more often than boys).
Lice aren't dangerous and they don't spread disease, but they are contagious and can just be downright annoying. Their bites may cause a child's scalp to become itchy and inflamed, and persistent scratching may lead to skin irritation and even infection.\
Having head lice is not a sign of uncleanliness or poor hygiene. The pesky little bugs can be a problem for kids of all ages and socioeconomic levels, no matter how often they do — or don't — clean their hair or bathe.
Here are some simple ways to get rid of the lice and their eggs, and help prevent a lice re-infestation:
- Wash all bed linens and clothing that's been recently worn by anyone in your home who's infested in very hot water (130° F [54.4° C]), then put them in the hot cycle of the dryer for at least 20 minutes.
- Have bed linens, clothing, and stuffed animals and plush toys that can't be washed dry-cleaned. Or, put them in airtight bags for 2 weeks.
- Vacuum carpets and any upholstered furniture (in your home or car).
- Soak hair-care items like combs, barrettes, hair ties or bands, headbands, and brushes in rubbing alcohol or medicated shampoo for 1 hour. You can also wash them in hot water or just throw them away.
Because lice are easily passed from person to person in the same house, bed mates and infested family members will also need treatment to prevent the lice from coming back.
Will They Ever Be Gone?
As many parents know firsthand, lice infestation can be a persistent nuisance, especially in group settings. If your child still has lice and you've followed every recommendation, it could be because:
- some nits were left behind
- your child is still being exposed to someone with lice
- the treatment you're using isn't effective
There's no doubt that they can be hard bugs to get rid of. If your child still has lice 2 weeks after you started treatment or if your child's scalp looks infected, call your doctor.