What to Do About Head Lice

Child and parent meeting with doctor

It’s one of the worst messages that a parent can get from their child’s school: Your child has head lice.

Ugh. If your kids are back in school, it’s almost inevitable that the problem of head lice will crop up at some point. There are between 6 million and 12 million head lice infestations in the U.S. every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If your child has head lice, what are you supposed to do? River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care Department can help by diagnosing the problem and recommending treatment.

How Do Lice Spread?

Lice are tiny parasites, insects that feed on human blood. They can be found on the scalp, neck, eyebrows and eyelashes. They’re most common among young children in daycare or elementary school.

There’s a myth that only people with poor hygiene get lice, but your typical case of head lice is not linked to uncleanliness. Lice can spread very easily through direct head-to-head contact, and indirectly through brushes, combs, hats, clothes, bedding and pillows.

How Do I Check for Lice?

Lice can make the head itch. If you see your child scratching their head a lot, try these tips.

  • Examine your hair for lice. Focus on the scalp and the hair at the back of the neck or behind the ears. Use a fine-tooth comb if you have one.
  • You can see head lice with the naked eye, but they’re pretty small—about the size of a sesame seed. They’re white, gray or light brown.
  • A magnifying glass can help you see them better.
  • Wet down the hair and comb through it.
  • If you’d rather get a professional opinion and medical advice, take your child to River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care Department. The medical staff can quickly diagnose head lice and recommend over-the-counter or prescription remedies that can help.

What Is the Best Way to Get Rid of Lice?

First, stay cool. Remember, your children look to you for guidance in a crisis. If you’re calm, they’re more likely to stay calm. If you’re upset, they’re more likely to be upset.

Take the following steps:

  1. Notify your child’s school (unless the school first notified you of the problem).
  2. Check everyone else in the family for signs of lice.
  3. Purchase an over-the-counter lice treatment such as a medicated shampoo or rinse. Or, if you’re consulting with a healthcare professional, they might prescribe a treatment.
  4. Follow the instructions on the medication packaging. Then check your child’s hair for the next few days. Follow the manufacturer’s directions if you see any remaining lice.
  5. Launder all bedding or stuffed animals that the child has been in contact with. Thoroughly clean any hairbrushes or hair accessories he or she may have used.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your child can return to school after you begin the appropriate treatment.

River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care Department offers walk-in care Monday–Friday from noon to 7:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m.–4 p.m. 


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