Head Lice

This is the presence of tiny insects on your scalp. It is also known as pediculosis capitus.

This is the presence of tiny insects on your scalp. It is also known as pediculosis capitus.

Head lice, or pediculosis capitus, are the presence of tiny insects (lice) on the skin covering the head (scalp) and in the hair. Sometimes the lice can also be found in the eyebrows or eyelashes.

  • The eggs of head lice are small white specks that look like dandruff. Unlike dandruff, they stick to the hair and do not flake.
  • Having head lice does not mean someone has poor hygiene. It can affect anyone.

Head lice can live for 30 days on a person. The eggs can live up to 2 weeks. The most common way to catch head lice is prolonged direct contact with an infected person. Catching head lice from someone's clothes, sheets, hats, towels or hairbrushes is less common. Lice do not jump or fly and pets do not get infected. The main symptoms of head lice include:

  • Intense itching of the scalp
  • Small bumps on the head and neck area
  • Tiny white specks (eggs or nits) that stick to the bottom of each hair and are hard to get off. Unhatched live nits are usually within ¼ inch of the scalp.

Some children may not have symptoms, yet have significant numbers of lice.

It can be difficult to see head lice and their eggs, so you may need to look closely with a bright light or magnifying glass. Part the hair and look for lice that move or white spots (eggs or nits) on the hair shafts that are hard to remove. They are commonly found at the top of the neck and behind the ears, so look there first. It is best to look at small sections of the scalp at a time.

  • Head lice are often spread among young children who go to school together. They are also found in people who live in close, overcrowded conditions.
  • Head lice do not carry or spread diseases.

Before you see a healthcare provider for head lice try:

  • Shampooing or applying lotions that contain 1 percent permethrin or other similar chemicals. These products are available without a prescription.
  • Removing the eggs with a special comb, called a nit comb. These combs are available at most drug stores.
  • Washing all clothes and bed linens in hot water and drying them on high heat. Everything should be washed or sealed up at the same time as the treatment.
  • Dry cleaning items that cannot be washed or keeping them sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks.

Over-the-counter (OTC) treatment with permethrins may need to be repeated in seven to ten days. There are different medications available by prescription if the over-the-counter treatment does not eliminate the head lice.

Head lice can go away with OTC medication. However, there may be times you need to see a healthcare provider for a different treatment. If you do, bring a copy of your medical history (past illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations).

  • Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms, how long you have had them, if you have had them before and if they are progressing or changing.
  • If your healthcare provider wants you to use a medication, ask if an over-the-counter product is right for you.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication for you, ask for a generic version. If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for you, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).

Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider.

  • What is the treatment for head lice? What options are available?
  • How long will it take my symptoms to improve?
  • If medication is recommended, how often will I need to use it? What are the possible side effects?
  • Do I need any follow-up and what symptoms should I report before my next appointment?

Source UHC.com

Also known as:

Head Lice

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