If you’ve heard there are head lice going around, it’s important to know what to do if your child gets nits. Unfortunately, these tiny parasites are common among young children, especially in schools and nurseries where they spend lots of time in close company with others. The good news is, they’re easy to treat. Let’s take a look at how to treat head lice, and what you can do to reduce the risk of them coming back.
How do children get head lice?
Head lice can’t fly; they can only travel from one head to another by crawling. Children playing together tend to spend a lot of time in close proximity to each other, which allows the lice to stroll from one head to another. Head lice can also survive for a short time away from a human head, so can spread when people share hats or other items that touch the hair.
Head lice aren’t a sign of dirty hair; they’re not fussy about which head they make their home!
What to look for
Before you spot any actual lice, you might recognise the signs of an outbreak. Be on the alert if your child keeps scratching their head, or if you have been told by a friend or family member that they have nits.
When searching your child’s hair for signs of head lice, there are two things to look for: the lice themselves, and their eggs (otherwise known as nits).
- Head lice are about 3mm long, and crawl along strands of hair.
- Nits are white, brown or yellow shells that stick to the hair.
The NHS website has more information about identifying head lice.
There’s no need to see a GP before treating head lice. Treatments are readily available over the counter. You can choose between specially formulated lotions, or combing out the lice.
- Nit combs. By literally going through the hair with a fine toothed comb, you can get rid of head lice, but it’s a laborious process, which will need to be repeated daily for at least two weeks to be sure of getting rid of the lice. It’s easiest to comb the hair while wet, with conditioner in it.
- Hair lotions. There are a variety of medicated lotions available, which are designed to treat head lice. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable product, and follow the instructions carefully. You will probably need to comb the dead lice out of the hair after treatment, and may need to reapply the lotion a few days later.
Treating head lice isn’t fun, so it’s a good idea to take preventative measures, to reduce the likelihood of your child getting a repeat infestation.
- If your child has long hair, keep it tied back in a French plait or similar, so that strands of hair are safely secured.
- At home, it’s important to practise good hygiene so that family members don’t re-infect each other. Avoid sharing towels , hats and hairbrushes, and try not to put your heads together if you’ve recently had nits.
- After treatment, keep checking your child’s hair regularly, so that you can spot the signs of head lice early. We suggest once a week, or every time you wash their hair.
Please always inform your child’s key worker if you are treating them for head lice. You can read more here about how we care for your child at nursery.