How To Find Head Lice

Head Lice Basics

Combing for head louse
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Do you think your kids have lice?

Are they itching their head or have you been told lice is going around?

It's time to give their heads a good check then.

It's not a surprise that the job of looking for and finding head lice is not usually something that the average parent wants to do though.

Most parents shudder a little at the thought that their kids might have head lice. However, if you get a note from school that head lice is going around, being able to find them on your own child is important so that you can get rid of them as soon as possible.

It will also help to make sure he doesn't pass them on, helping other kids avoid getting lice.

Finding Head Lice and Nits

  1. Review some head lice pictures to help you understand what you are looking for in your child's hair, including live lice and nits (lice eggs).
  2. Wash your child's hair with a regular shampoo and hair conditioner and then check your child's hair after your rinse and dry it, but while it is still damp. The hair conditioner can make it easier to comb through your child's hair.
  3. Look for live lice crawling on your child's head. Although they may be anywhere, they are most commonly found at the back of your child's head, near his neck, and behind his ears. Be aware that lice move very quickly, and are only about the size of a sesame seed, so you may have to be patient to find one. Also, the average child, even with a moderate lice infestation, may have very few -- about 10 or 12 -- live lice.
  1. Nits, or lice eggs, are much easier to find, and can usually be located on individual hairs close to your child's scalp. Unlike dandruff, which can look similar to nits, it should be hard to get a nit off of a hair, as they are almost glued on to the hairs.
  2. Be sure to do lice checks on every one else in the house, especially if you find nits or live lice, and continue to check your child for live lice and new nits every few days.

    More Tips on Finding Lice

    • Head lice often cause itching, so if you see your child often scratching his head, especially the back of his head -- check him for head lice.
    • If your child has a lot of hair or very long hair, it can help to part your child's hair and keep it separated with clips and then go through each section -- one at a time.
    • Don't panic if you spot a live head louse. Your child will likely get upset if she knows that she has 'bugs' in her hair. Instead, stay calm and get your child's head lice treated.
    • If you find nits more than 1cm from your child's scalp, then they are likely old and can't hatch into new lice. Doesn't that still mean that your child has lice? No. It means that your child had lice at one point, but if you don't see live lice or nits close to the scalp, then they don't have an active lice problem.

    See your pediatrician if you aren't sure if your child has live lice or nits, or if you think that you keep finding nits after repeated treatments. It can be very easy to confuse dandruff and hair casts with nits. Wouldn't it be great if your child didn't really have lice after all?

    Devore, Cynthia D. Head Lice. Pediatrics, May 2015, 135 (5) e1355-e1365

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