Discovering head lice on your child’s scalp will send shivers down any parent’s spine. The insects are often detected when a youngster complains about being itchy, especially behind the ears or neck.
To determine if it’s really head lice and not just a dry scalp, Dr. Benjamin Lee, a pediatrician at UT Southwestern Medical Center, suggests parents sit their child down in a well-lit room so the affected scalp can be closely examined. After parting the hair, parents should look for adult lice, which will move, and small white or yellow-brown specks.
“These are lice eggs, or nits,” explains Dr. Lee. “They will be firmly attached to the hair and might be easier to see at the back of the neck or behind the ears. Parents should use a fine-tooth comb and carefully comb through small sections of hair. Between each brush the comb should be wiped with a wet paper towel. The scalp, comb and towel should all be examined for nits.”
If nits are detected, Dr. Lee says, over-the-counter cream rinses that specifically kill lice can be purchased at drugstores. Some lice have shown resistance to these rinses, and he advises parents to treat the scalp again after one week. If the problem persists parents should take their child to a pediatrician.
Dr. Lee also recommends that parents wash their child’s clothes, towels, headwear, and bed linens in hot water and dry them on high heat. Additionally, all items that can’t be washed — such as stuffed animals — should be placed in a plastic bag for a few days till the nits are dead. Lice cannot live more for than 48 hours off the head.
Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/pediatrics to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in pediatrics.
Media Contact: Erin Prather Stafford
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