Seasoned parents know that a lice infestation can mean weeks of washing bedding and towels daily, treating mattresses and other furniture with special sprays, and likely purchasing new pillows and hairbrushes.
Treating your child for lice can take hours, especially if their hair is long or thick. Because one louse can lay about six eggs per day, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each louse and nit must be removed to prevent re-infestation.
Even if you think you got them all, it’s important to retreat seven to 10 days after the initial treatment. And as for yourself, you should have another adult check for lice because it is nearly impossible to adequately treat yourself.
Are you feeling itchy already? Here are some signs you or your child may have lice.
Your head is itchy.
The most common symptom of lice is having an itchy head. According to the Mayo Clinic, the itchiness is caused by an allergic reaction to louse saliva and may not occur for two to six weeks after you’ve contracted lice.
An itchy scalp is the most obvious symptom of head lice, but that alone does not mean you have head lice. Other more common things like dandruff and eczema also can make the scalp itch.
You feel like something is crawling on your head.
If you have lice, you might actually be able to feel the bugs crawling on your scalp. According to Healthline, lice can cause the sensation of something moving on or tickling your head.
If you’re concerned your child has lice, ask them if they notice this sensation.
You spot a louse.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) described lice as looking like “light-brown sesame seeds crawling on the hair, skin, or clothing.”
Typically, if you see one louse, you are likely infected with several living lice, as well as their eggs, also known as nits.
It takes a little over a week for a nit to hatch into a nymph (an infant louse), and about nine to 12 days for the nymph to mature. If you spot a louse, you’ve probably been infected for a few weeks.
You see nits.
The first time you come across nits, you may confuse them with dandruff. The main difference between dandruff and nits, however, is that dandruff can be easily brushed off.
These tiny yellow or white ovals are typically located about .25 inch from the scalp and won’t budge when touched. According to The Head Lice Center,nits are essentially glued to the hair shaft and require a special comb to remove. Occasionally, it may be more effective to pull the nits all the way down the hair shaft using your fingernails.
It’s important to note that, according to the CDC, nits located further than .25 inch down the hair shaft may already be hatched.
It’s difficult to sleep.
The CDC reported that lice are more active in the dark. This can cause scalp irritation which can lead to sleepless nights.
Therefore, if your little one can’t sleep, is acting cranky, and has other symptoms associated with lice, consider performing a scalp check.
The same goes for you; if you’re having trouble sleeping due to an itchy scalp, ask someone to perform a lice check on you.
You notice sores from scratching.
If you or your child is infested with lice, you might notice sores on your or their head caused by scratching, according to the CDC. Be careful because these sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria found on the person’s skin.
If this becomes the case, talk to your doctor about potentially being treated with antibiotics.
Someone close to you has lice.
If you or your child has recently been in close contact with someone who has lice, it’s time to do a scalp check.
Read more: 10 surprising places you can get lice
Don’t wait until your head feels itchy. Using a lice comb and a bright light, check the scalp starting behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. The sooner you treat an infestation, the sooner the lice will be eradicated from your life.
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