Head lice is a common childhood condition, which many parents dread due to its persistent nature. For National Bug Busting Day, we’ve put together some helpful information and our top bug busting tips…
What are head lice?
Head lice, also known as nits, are very common in young children and their families. Many associate catching head lice with dirty hair, this is untrue, head lice are picked up by head-to-head contact even from clean hair.
How do I know if it’s a head louse?
A head louse can be found in hair on the scalp. They are small insects, up to 3mm long, so they can be difficult to spot in hair. Head lice are brown but they also lay eggs in hair on the scalp, which appear white. Head lice will make your head feel itchy or like something is moving in your hair. The only way to be sure someone has head lice is by finding live lice. You can do this by combing their hair with a fine-toothed comb. Available online or at pharmacies.
How do I get rid of head lice?
You can treat head lice without seeing a GP. You will need to treat head lice as soon as you spot them. Check everyone in the house and start treating anyone who has head lice on the same day with one of the following:
- Wet combing –
Lice can be removed by wet combing. You should try this method first:
- wash hair with ordinary shampoo
- apply lots of conditioner (any conditioner will do)
- comb the whole head of hair, from the roots to the ends
It can take about 10 minutes to comb short hair, and 20 to 30 minutes for long, frizzy or curly hair.
Wet comb on days 1, 5, 9 and 13 to catch any newly hatched head lice. Check again that everyone’s hair is free of lice on day 17.
The charity Community Hygiene Concern has a video about wet combing for head lice, click here to watch.
- Medicated lotions and sprays –
Ask a pharmacist for advice if you have tried wet combing for 17 days, but your child still has live head lice. They may recommend using medicated lotions and sprays. These can kill head lice in all types of hair, and you can buy them from pharmacies, supermarkets or online.
Head lice should die within a day. Some lotions and sprays come with a comb to remove dead lice and eggs. Some treatments will need to be repeated after a week to kill any newly hatched lice.
Check the pack to see if they’re OK for you or your child and how to use them.
If lotions or sprays do not work, speak to a pharmacist about other treatments.
Can I prevent head lice?
Sadly, you cannot prevent head lice. You can help stop them spreading by wet or dry combing regularly to catch them early but do not use medicated lotions and sprays to prevent head lice, these can irritate your scalp.