Does My Child Have Head Lice?

How can I tell if my child has got head lice?

The last thing that most parents want to get is a notification from school informing them that there’s been a case of head lice at the school.

Because head lice are so contagious, schools do periodic checks to make sure any case is identified and steps taken to prevent them from spreading to the wider community.

How can I tell if my child has got head lice?

What Are Head Lice?

Head lice are tiny parasites that live off the blood they suck from the scalp of the host they live on. Head lice transfer (but do not jump) from one head to the next. They don’t carry germs but they can make life an itchy misery for anyone who is infected.

What Do Head Lice Look Like?

There are two tell-tale signs of head lice. The first is unhatched eggs about the size of the head of a pin. They are commonly called nits. If they are alive, they will be tan in color. If they are dead, they will be black. Hatched egg casings will appear white.

In terms of the live bugs, they are brown and about the size of a sesame seed. Since they are sensitive to light, they usually lurk in darker places, such as behind the ears and at the nape of the neck.

How to Check Your Child for Head Lice

There are a number of steps in this process. The first is to look out for the main signs and symptoms of head lice, which include:

  • A tickling or tingling feeling on the scalp
  • A sensation that something is moving in the hair
  • Itching caused by an allergic reaction to lice bites
  • Scratching and rubbing their head often
  • Sores on the scalp, caused by scratching and perhaps even infection
  • Acting irritable

Not getting a good night’s sleep, because lice are more active in the dark

If you have investigated their symptoms and are concerned your child has lice, it’s time to physically check the scalp. You may wish to buy a nit comb at CVS or other drug store chain to help you search, and to deal with anything you might find.

How Can I Tell If My Child Has Got Head Lice?

You can do the search on dry or wet hair. For dry hair, sit your child down in front of a bright light. Part the hair with a comb or nit comb and see if you spot nits, egg casings, or any live bugs moving in the hair. Pay special attention to the ear area. Also check for scabs on the scalp from scratching.

You can also check for nits by feeling the scalp. It will feel like your child has sand in their hair. Wash your hands thoroughly after examining your child. If you’re not sure, move on to the wet method.

With the wet method, get:

  • A light
  • Strong magnifying glass
  • Nit comb
  • Bowl of warm water
  • Bottle of hair conditioner

Wet your child’s head. Add conditioner liberally to the scalp and more down to the ends. Starting on one side, at the front, start combing out the hair in small sections – from the root of the hair to the tip.

Rinse the comb after each section by swishing it in the bowl of water. When you are finished, rinse well and shampoo the hair as usual. Blow dry to help kill off any missed eggs or living bugs.

If one of the children does have lice, check the whole family just to be safe.


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