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Got Lice? Now What?

By Belinda Pianezza

Does your child complain of an itchy head? Does he or she seem to scratch endlessly? What’s bugging them may be more than just a case of dry scalp. Your child may have a case of Pediculosis. Believe it or not that is probably the only medical term that sounds less frightening than the layman’s term. Pediculosis means lice infestation… otherwise there really are creepy crawlies running through your child’s hair follicles. What to do?

First, you must know what you are dealing with. Lice are little insects that live in human hair. They feed on your scalp and breed quickly in the protection of your follicles. They are a nuisance that can spread easily, but they are not considered a health hazard and do not spread any disease.

Who can get it? The simple answer is anyone with hair. Lice are spread by head-to-head contact. That can be holding your head close to anyone who is infested, or sharing a hat, comb, hair tie, pillow, helmet, or scarf with someone who has a head full of little friends. More often, lice infect the heads of kids between three and ten years of age.

How do you serve the eviction notice? There are a few different ways. Check with your local pharmacist to see what over-the- counter products are available. Most will recommend a head lice shampoo. Apply as advised on the bottle. Be careful not to overuse it because it could have adverse affects. Check with your physician before applying any chemical treatment to a child under two years of age. Some chemical treatments will need another dose about seven to ten days later to make sure all eggs have been killed and no new bugs hatch.

Another method is to remove all the bugs and eggs with a comb. There are special lice combs on the market that have teeth that are closely spaced. This is a very time consuming task especially if the patient has thick hair. Other options include all natural remedies like olive oil or petrolatum jelly. The thick gooey environment stops lice from moving so you can remove them easily with a comb or your fingers.

There are also some companies that will remove lice for you. They have a lot of experience with the bugs and are able to detect any infestations. Schools will not allow children to stay in the classroom if they have lice. Having experienced people remove the problem can be a stress relief for parents.

Luckily, lice that are away from a human head cannot survive for more than a few days, so once you treat the problem, be sure not to forget to eliminate any further infestation. Wash all clothing, bedding, hats and anything else that might have come in contact in hot soapy water or place certain items in a dryer for at least 20 minutes. Never use insecticide sprays.