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Illnesses & Symptoms

Lice

Lice.pngWhat are Lice?

Lice are small, gray-white bugs that lay eggs that stick to hair. These are called "nits". You can see these tiny gray shells most easily on the back of the neck and above the ears.

Lice are not known to carry other infections (unlike ticks and mosquitos).

Lice need air to survive. To get rid of lice, you can physically remove all live lice and the nits (preferred method), smother them with a greasy substance, or kill them with medicine (see below).

If untreated, lice bites can make the scalp itch. If the scalp is scratched, the skin can get infected. Medicine prescribed by a doctor is needed to treat the secondary infection.

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Where can you get Lice?


You can get lice from sharing combs, hats, clothes and beds with someone who has them.  

If one family member has lice, all other members should check their hair for lice and nits daily for the next 2 weeks.

Pets do not get lice.

Important tips to help get rid of lice;

  • Let your child's school or daycare know he has head lice. If you don't, you run the risk of classmates sharing and sharing... which means you will repeat this process over and over again!
  • Check all family members daily for two weeks, even those without known lice. Treat all who are infected with these steps:
    1. Take bath or shower. Rinse and towel dry hair.
    2. Use vinegar to help loosen the nits:
      • Use pure vinegar (white, red, or apple cider varieties all work) to unglue the nits from the hairshaft.
      • Avoid getting vinegar in the eyes. Rinse eyes well with water if vinegar gets in the eye.
      • Apply pure vinegar to your child’s hair, especially close to the scalp, behind the ears and in the neck area. Wait for a few minutes.
      • Rinse off the vinegar with water or 50% water/50%vinegar. 
    3. Comb hair with a fine-tooth nit comb to get out all the lice nits. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP! (Read Amazon or other reviews before choosing a Nit comb. Some work better than others. Look for a closely spaced metal comb.)
    4. Dress you child in clean clothes after his body and hair are clean.
  • Look at the scalp (focusing on behind the ears and the neck) daily for two weeks. This is important because one missed nit can hatch within two weeks. If you see a nit or lice, repeat the steps above.

Cleaning the house:

  • Wash all sheets, pillow cases, towels, stuffed animals, washcloths and clothing in hot water. Put them in the dryer on high heat for 40 minutes to kill the nits.
  • Professionally dry clean clothes you can't wash.
  • If unable to clean items, such as pillows or stuffed animals, place them in a sealed, air tight plastic bag for 48 hours - some sources recommend 10 days.
  • Options for combs and brushes (choose one):
    • Wash all combs and brushes in hot, soapy water. Let them soak for at least 4 hours to drown the lice.
    • Boil for 5 minutes.
    • Place in dish washer with high heat dry setting.
  • Completely vacuum cloth-covered furniture, carpets and rugs to remove lice and nits.
  • Cover couches and sofas with a sheet for 48 hours after vacuuming.
  • Hair ties, bows, headbands and hats should be washed and dried with high heat for 40 minutes, put in sealed plastic bags for at least 48 hrs, or replaced.
  • Mattresses do not need to be cleaned as long as the sheets on top have been cleaned as above.

Treatment Options

  • Licemeister comb: The Licemeister comb is used by many professional lice removal businesses. If used correctly it removes live bugs as well as nits well. It is completely safe and is the most effective of all treatments when done properly.
  • Drowning method: Place solid shortening (Crisco), petroleum jelly (Vaseline), or real mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip), on the hair. Cover hair with a shower cap. Leave cap on for 8-10 hours, then wash the hair several times until clean. (Dish detergent may be helpful in removing the oil.)
  • Cetaphil Cleanser method:  One treatment that we have had great results with involves Cetaphil cleanser
  • OTC Medications: These medicines are less effective as the lice are developing resistance. They are not routinely recommended any longer.
  • Prescription medications are available if other methods fail twice. Please schedule an appointment to discuss these options.
  • Professional Nit Pickers: There are several companies that will comb through every inch of hair to remove nits. We do not endorse one over the other, but know that they have many happy customers. Some local companies that we've heard about (in alphabetical order):
 
Note: Schools no longer enforce no nit policies. Children are allowed to return to school once they've been treated, but if all nits are not removed, your child is at risk of getting live lice again soon!

Please visit Head Lice and CDC Head Lice for more information on diagnosing head lice and treatment options.

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Illnesses & Symptoms