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Critter alert: What to do if your child has lice

Head lice crawl, but they can't jump or fly. Transmission of a head louse from one person to another is often by direct head-to-head contact.

Discovering that your child has lice living in their beautiful locks can cause panic. The good news is that lice are easily treatable.

What is head lice?

The head louse, or Pediculus humanus capitis, is a parasitic insect that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the human scalp.

Head lice are a very common problem, affecting millions of children across the world, especially those between the ages of three and 12 years. Lice aren’t dangerous and they don’t spread disease, but they are contagious (spreading through direct head-to-head contact) and can cause a child’s scalp to become itchy and inflamed.

Although lice are very small, these wingless critters can be seen by the naked eye if you look hard enough. Each louse is about the size of a sesame seed and can be white, brown, or dark gray in colour.

Their eggs – called nits – are glued onto hairs near the scalp and can appear as white flecks. Unlike dandruff, however, if you try to slide the nits off, they won’t budge. Spotting a live louse or nymph (a young louse) is often the only sign of an infestation.

How to treat lice in children

If your child gets lice or you hear of a lice outbreak in your school area, follow these tips:

  • Check your child’s hair carefully to see if he or she has lice or nits.
  • If you do find lice, wash your child’s hair with non-toxic Picksan Lice Stop shampoo and use the comb to extract the remaining lice and nits.
  • After you’ve washed your child’s hair, use Picksan NoLice! Preventative spray to get rid of any remaining lice and to protect your child’s hair from further infestation.
  • Keep your child out of school if possible and inform your child’s school about the situation to prevent further infestation.
  • Tweet your school area’s details to @LiceAlertSA or post the information on the Lice Alert SA Facebook page to warn other parents of the outbreak.
  • After a week, wash your child’s hair again with the anti-lice shampoo and spray it with the preventative spray to kill any lice from nits that were not removed the first time.
  • Try to avoid contact between your child and his friends for at least ten days to avoid spreading the lice.

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