If you have a child in daycare or school, chances are you have dealt with lice. First comes the dreaded phone call… followed by the panic of what to do next. A couple of initial questions may run through your mind. Is it lice or is it just dry scalp? How do I get rid of this? How did this happen? Let’s take this step-by-step and first discuss how to tell if it is indeed lice.
Lice vs. Dandruff
Lice and dandruff can look very similar but there are a few easy ways to tell the difference. The best way to tell is by combing the hair or trying to pick it out of the hair. Dandruff is easy to get off and will move around. Lice are firmly attached to the hair shaft and cannot be easily picked off. Another big difference is the shape and size. Dandruff can be different shapes and sizes while the lice are all about the same size. Check out the images below to help you decide if it is lice or dandruff.
The symptoms of lice include a crawling sensation (like something is moving in your hair), itching, sores on the head (that usually come from scratching), a rash at the nape of the neck, and irritability.
The Life Cycle of Lice
Lice go through three life stages: the egg or nit, the nymph, and the adult.
Eggs or Nits: Nits are very small and usually yellow to white in color. They take about a week to hatch into a nymph.
Nymphs: The nymph is about the size of a pinhead and begins to look like the adult. They mature into adult lice about seven days after hatching. To live, they must feed on blood. Nymphs that get onto sheets or the bed will die before they become an adult.
Adults: The adult is about the size of a sesame seed, has six legs with claws, and is a tan-to-grayish-white color. If you have dark hair, the lice will appear darker. Adult lice can live up to 30 days on a person’s head. They will need to feed on blood several times a day. Without blood, they will die within one to two days.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you think you or your child has lice, visit us at Carolina Convenient Care urgent care in Chapel Hill to get confirmation and to help with a treatment plan.
According to the CDC, treatment for head lice is recommended for anyone who has been diagnosed with an active infestation. All household members or anyone that has come in close contact with someone who has lice should be checked.
There are many over-the-counter medications that can be used to treat lice. A few that are available at 501 Pharmacy our next door neighbor pharmacy, include Lice Shield Shampoo and Conditioner, RID Lice Killing Shampoo, and Nix Lice Killing Creme Rinse.
You should apply the lice medicine, also called pediculicide, according to the instructions in the box or on the label. Pay careful attention to how much to use, how long to leave the medication on the hair, and how long until you can wash your hair with something other than the medication. If some live lice are still found eight-12 hours after treatment but are moving more slowly than before, do not retreat. Comb the dead and remaining live lice out of the hair with a fine-toothed nit comb.
Unfortunately, you aren’t done yet! After the initial treatment, be sure to check, comb, and remove nits and lice from the hair every two or three days. You should also continue to check for lice and nits for two or three weeks after to make sure all the lice and nits are gone.
If you do not find any dead lice 8-12 hours after the initial treatment, the medicine may not be working. At this time, please visit us at Carolina Convenient Care to discuss other treatment options.
How Head Lice is Spread
Lice are spread by a person coming in close contact with someone who already has head lice or coming in contact with an infected person’s clothing or belongings. Head lice do not hop or jump, they crawl. Common ways people contract lice are through sharing hats, brushes, headphones, and sports helmets. Personal hygiene and cleanliness have nothing to do with getting head lice.
If you think you or your child has head lice, please visit us at Carolina Convenient Care for an evaluation.