What Are Head Lice?
Lice are very, very small insects. In fact, they are so tiny that you can barely see them! Each louse (the name for one of the lice) is only about the size of a sesame seed.
Head lice need to be next to skin to survive — and the warmth of your skin is a perfect place for them to live. Lice eat tiny amounts of blood (much less than a mosquito does) for their nourishment and use their sticky little feet to hold on to hair. Gross!
When lice start living in hair, they also start to lay eggs, or nits. Lice can survive up to 30 days on a person’s head and can lay eight eggs a day. Lice attach their nits to pieces of hair, close to the scalp.
If you see a small, oval blob on a strand of hair, that’s probably a nit. If these little eggs are yellow, tan, or brown, the lice haven’t hatched yet. If the eggs are white or clear, the lice have hatched.
Head Lice Love Everyone
Having lice can be embarrassing, but anyone can get them. That includes the cleanest kid in the class! Having head lice is not a sign of dirtiness or poor hygiene. The pesky little bugs can be a problem no matter how often a kid does — or doesn’t — wash their hair or take a bath.
Lice can’t jump or fly. They spread when people’s heads touch or when they share hats and other clothing, combs, brushes, headbands, barrettes, and bedding (like sheets, blankets, pillowcases, and sleeping bags).
If lice are stuck on any of these things and that thing touches another person’s head, that person may also get lice. Lice spread in classrooms and schools because kids play together closely and often share more stuff than adults do.
How Can We Get Rid of Head Lice?
If a kid has lice, an adult will need to buy a special medicated shampoo, cream, or lotion that kills lice. An adult will need to apply the medicine and follow the directions. Part of the treatment is combing your hair with a fine-tooth comb to remove the nits.
The shampoo, cream, or lotion usually kills the lice right away. The itching should go away within a few days, but treatment may need to be repeated in 7 to 10 days to kill any new lice that may have hatched since the first treatment.
Removing By Hand
Your parent also can try removing the nits and lice by hand. To do this, your mom or dad will use a fine-tooth comb on your wet, conditioned hair every 3–4 days for 3 weeks after the last live louse was seen.
Wetting the hair temporarily stops the lice from moving, and the conditioner makes it easier to get a comb through the hair.