|Male (left) and Female (right) head lice. Image from Wikipedia.|
Intense itching is really the only physical symptom to notice, other than the appearance of actual lice or nits. If you or your child suspect you have lice, you need to carefully pick through the hair to look for physical evidence. Nits usually are found attached to the shaft of the hair, very close to the scalp. They may look like dandruff, but, unlike dandruff, they are not easily removed. Adult lice are pictured in the image above. (shudder) They can usually be found behind ears, or at the nape of the neck. They are tiny!
It may be easier to search for lice in wet hair. Use a fine toothed comb and carefully comb through and separate at the roots. I remember my parents using a nit comb on my very long hair when I was a little kid. It was not a fun experience. One of the benefits of having a boy is that it is socially acceptable, and even cool, to shave his head. This is my primary louse-prevention strategy. Hubs is follically challenged, so he shaves his head too, making it a viable option in Little Boo's eyes.
|Mommy's Louse-Prevention Strategy|
Should we find anything, Little Boo will need to stay home from school until all evidence of the critters is gone. There are a number of non-prescription shampoos and treatments available at your local drugstore - just ask your pharmacist. If the over-the-counter products don't do the job, your physician can prescribe something heftier.
For those who would prefer to stay away from chemicals on their wee ones' heads, there are many home remedies to try. Many folks swear by tea tree oil, both as a louse killer and a preventative measure. You can add a few drops to your child's shampoo for prevention, or add it directly to their head if lice are present. Olive oil, mayonnaise, or vaseline, applied to the head at night and covered with a shower cap or plastic wrap, are touted as being able to drown or suffocate the the adult lice.
But, from all I've been reading, it seems that the only surefire way to get rid of lice is the good old-fashioned nit-picking. Comb and pick out the adults and the nits. Painstaking, time-consuming, and possibly painful. But effective. We have been lucky so far, and I hope we won't have to actually test out methods ourselves!
For more information on head lice/pediculosis and its prevention, detection, and treatment, please visit the Mayo Clinic's website. They are my go-to internet source for any health-related questions.
For an in-depth survey of what works and what doesn't in terms of treatment, I recommend this article by John Hoffman in Today's Parent, from 2007. It provides a careful look at a number of options that may or may not work or be necessary.
I have to go scratch for a while now. I hope it's just psycho-somatic....
What about you? Have you had a run-in with lice and your kids? How did you treat it? What worked and what didn't??
(Mayo Clinic, Wikipedia, and Today's Parent websites all provided insights for this article.)