Every parent dreads that call from the school: “Your child has lice.” It’s a lucky child who can get through school without suffering from at least one lice infestation.
If this is your first time dealing with lice, you may not know how to go about treating it. Luckily, lice can often be eliminated with over-the-counter treatments. Here’s what you need to know about lice treatment.
How do you get lice?
Lice are small, wingless parasites that feed on blood. They are highly contagious, and are spread by contact. You get lice by encountering a perosn that already has lice. Lice can also be spread through contact with an object that is infested, like a hat or hair brush.
Types of lice
Although head lice may be the most common type of lice, there are three different types of lice:
- Head lice affect the scalp and are usually easier to see above the ears and at the base of the neck.
- Body lice live in clothing and bedding and feed on humans that come into contact with affected items. They mostly affect those who can’t keep up with personal hygiene, such as the homeless.
- Pubic lice, more commonly known as crabs, live on coarse body hair like that around the genitals, although they can also affect eyelashes, eyebrows, and other coarse body hair. They are usually spread through sexual activity. If found on children, they can be an indicator of sexual abuse.
Lice symptoms include:
- Severe itching on your scalp
- The feeling of being tickled on your scalp
- Small red bumps on the scalp, neck, and shoulders
- The presence of lice on your scalp, body, clothing, or hair anywhere on the head or body. Lice are bugs that are about the size of a sesame seed.
- The presence of lice eggs, known as nits, on hair shafts. They can be mistaken for dandruff, but are recognizable by the fact that they aren’t easily brushed out.
Lice treatment usually involves three steps:
- Kill the lice. This involves using an over-the-counter shampoo called a pediculicide. Some examples of pediculicides include Nix and Rid. Follow directions carefully. The product might need to be reapplied in 7-10 days.
- Clean your home and personal belongings. Lice aren’t as tricky to get rid of as bedbugs, but it’s important to wash all bedding and clothing in hot water and dry it on a hot setting to kill remaining lice. Vacuum your carpets and place any items that can’t be washed in a sealed plastic bag for two weeks.
- Follow up. About 8-12 hours after the first treatment, check to see whether the lice seem to be dead or dying or if they’re as active as ever. Check for nits and lice after every treatment and for several weeks afterward. If lice or nits remain, talk to your doctor to discuss further treatment.
When to see a doctor
Lice are commonly treated at home with over-the-counter products, but sometimes you need to speak a doctor about treatment. Talk to a doctor if:
- You are pregnant
- You have hives or scratches from itching
- Over-the-counter products don’t work
About “Super lice”
Lately, some lice have become resistant to over-the-counter treatments and have been dubbed “super lice.” Though they aren’t impossible to treat, they may require different forms of treatment. Treatments that are effective on “super lice” include prescription products, removal of all lice and nits with a nit comb, and dehydrating the lice with a special heated device at a lice clinic.
Think you or your child may have symptoms of lice? Book an appointment with a PlushCare physician and get a prescription treatment today.