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Proper Care for Head Lice!

Head lice are tiny insects that live on the skin covering the top of your head, called the scalp. They can be spread by close contact with other people.

Head lice infect hair on the head. Tiny eggs on the hair look like flakes of dandruff. However, instead of flaking off the scalp, they stay put.

Head lice can live up to 30 days on a human. Their eggs can live for more than 2 weeks. They spread easily, particularly among school children. They are more common in close, overcrowded living conditions.

Some of the symptoms associated with head lice are:

Intense itching of the scalp

Small red bumps on the scalp, neck and shoulders (bumps may become crusty or ooze)

Tiny white specks (eggs or nits) on the bottom of each hair that are hard to get off

*What to do if you suspect head lice*

Use disposable gloves and look at the person's head under a bright light. A magnifying glass can help. Part the hair all the way down to the scalp in very small sections, looking both for moving lice and eggs (nits). Look at the entire head this way. Look closely around the top of the neck and ears, the most common locations for eggs.

*Treatment*

Lotions and shampoos containing 1% permethrin (Nix) often work well. They can be bought at the store without a prescription. If these do not work, a doctor can give you a prescription for stronger medicine. Such medicine should be used exactly as directed.

To use the medicine shampoo:

First rinse and dry the hair.

Apply the medicine to the hair and scalp.

After 10 minutes, rinse it off.

Check for lice and nits again in 8 to 12 hours. If the lice seem active, talk to your healthcare provider before retreating.

Metal combs with very fine teeth are stronger and more effective than plastic nit combs.

These metal combs are easier to find in pet stores or on the Internet than in pharmacies.

Wash all clothes and bed linens in hot water with detergent. This also helps prevent head lice from spreading to others during the short period when head lice can survive off the human body. Repeat combing for nits in 7 - 10 days.

Lice are usually killed with proper treatment. However, they may come back, especially if the source is not corrected. For example, a classroom with many infected children can cause kids to repeatedly get lice.

*Prevention*

Never share hair brushes, combs, hair pieces, hats, bedding, towels, or clothing with someone who has head lice

If your child has lice, be sure to check policies at schools, day-care centers, preschools, and nurseries. Many do not allow infected children to be at school until the lice have been completely treated

Frequent cleaning of carpets and all other surfaces such as car seats, bed sheets, and stuffed animals

Anything that you can't wash can be placed in a large plastic bag for a few weeks, where the lice with eventually starve and die.


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