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Lice (Pediculosis)

Lice are blood-sucking insects that infest hairy areas of the body, which for young children typically means the head. They attach their eggs to the base of the hair shaft. Lice infestation, or pediculosis, is most commonly spread by close person-to-person contact; lice cannot hop or fly. They can also be spread through contact with infested clothing, combs, or bedding.
Some of the common signs of head lice include:
  • Itchy scalp (may be worse at night).
  • Tickling feeling of something moving in the hair.
  • Frequent itching, caused by an allergic reaction to the insects' saliva or feces.
  • Small red bumps or sores on the head caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected. Infected sores may become red and tender, ooze, and then may crust over.
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck.
There are usually many nits (lice eggs) at the base of the scalp. They appear as white or clear dots, and they are firmly attached to the hair shaft. The eggs usually hatch in 9 to 10 days.
The best method of determining if your child has lice is by using a fine-tooth lice comb on dry or wet hair and looking for a live louse. They are about the size of a sesame seed, have six legs, and are tan to grayish-white in color (although they may look darker). Adult lice can live up to 30 days on a person's head.
Although there are many options available for treating head lice, you must do two things -- kill the live lice and kill or remove all the nits from the hair. This process includes three necessary steps:
  • Medications
  • Careful combing of the hair (nit-picking), although this is not necessary with all medications
  • Treating (cleaning and washing) the house and bedding.
It is a tedious process and can take up to 21 days.
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