The symptoms of head lice infestation are itching, the presence of nits (eggs) in the hair and black or red fecal specks on the back, shoulders and clothing. Check the head and scalp for nits, which are easier to find than the fast-moving lice. Work under bright light and use a fine-tooth comb. Separate the hair in sections and closely examine the entire scalp. Nits look like dandruff, but are not easily removed. If there are nits in the hair, this could be a sign of infestation. They should be removed immediately, since lice reproduce at an astonishingly fast rate.
In addition to treating the infested person, the entire family and close friends should be checked; there is no need to treat everyone on a preventative basis if only one person has lice. Anti-lice treatments kill the insects, but don’t prevent them from spreading. Infested children should be treated before returning to school, a policy that has been adopted by most schools.
Talk to a pharmacist to get advice about using a pediculicide. Carefully follow all the product directions and do not use a larger amount than indicated. Remove the nits after every treatment, using either your nails or a nit comb.
It is best to wash all bedding and clothing or to have them dry cleaned.
There are many ways to prevent head lice infestation. Here are a few:
- Avoid sharing personal items that could have lice on them, such as towels, hats, hair brushes and hair clips.
- Put your hat and scarf in your coat pocket or sleeve when you take them off.
- Make sure your children's personal items are stored in an individual locker at their school or daycare, or use a box or bag that can be sealed.
- Keep long hair tied back.
- Wear a swimming cap in public pools.
- If your child has head lice, immediately inform teachers, daycare workers, close friends and other groups so that the necessary precautions can be taken. All infested children should be treated at the same time.