You open your child’s rucksack and find that dreaded letter. “Can you please check your children’s heads as we have cases of head lice in the school”. Your head instantly starts to itch thinking about it and you search your child’s hair with baited breath. Nits are a pain so what do you do if you find them?
Everyone has heard of nits and head lice, and they can be a huge problem in schools! Everyone tells you that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, that head lice prefer clean hair (a myth – they’re not bothered if it’s dirty or clean). But it can still make you feel a bit ashamed, and like you’ve failed some hygiene test if you find the dreaded bugs or eggs lurking in your child’s hair.
As mentioned above, nits and head lice have nothing to do with the cleanliness of hair. They are passed around by head to head contact and are very common in children aged 4-11.
How to spot head nits and head lice?
A louse egg, or a nit, is about the size of a flake of dandruff. They are oval in shape and are tiny yellow, white or brown dots. They are attached to the hair close to the scalp, where the environment is an ideal temperature for incubating the egg. Head lice are tiny grey/brown insects.
As they are so small, they can be difficult to find and see. The first signs would be that your child is scratching and itching their head. They may even feel something is moving on their head. But sometimes there are no symptoms.
How to check for nits and head lice?
Because they are very hard to spot, a good piece of advice is to check your children’s heads on a regular basis. Doubly important if you get that letter from school. To check for nits here’s what you need to do:
- Part the hair in different places checking the nape of the neck and behind the ears, see if there are marks from where your child may be itching or scratching
- Look for any type of movement in the hair along with looking for the nits (lice eggs) attached to the hair (as mentioned above). It’s often easier to feel them rather than see them as they are like grains of sand
- Make sure that what you can see or feel is actually nits rather than dandruff – dandruff will be easy to move whereas nits will be stuck hard to the hair
How to treat nits and head lice?
So you’ve checked your child’s hair and horror of horror – yes they have the dreaded nits. Remember, it is not your child’s fault or your own. As mentioned above they are not fussed whether it’s dirty or clean hair. So what do you do now?
Usually you don’t need to see your GP about getting rid of head lice. There are treatments available from supermarkets, chemists and online. The main options are:
- Sprays and lotions to kill them – be aware that some are not suitable for breastfeeding or pregnant women, or children under 2 – if in doubt have a word with the pharmacist who can give you the best advice.
- Head lice comb – specially designed for the job, suitable for everyone and relatively inexpensive. Can be used over and over again.
If you find that your child has nice nits or head lice then it is best to treat everyone in the house as they can easily move from head to head and spread to the whole family.
What to do next?
You need to tell the school if your child has nits or head lice. You may find it embarrassing but there’s really no need as i’s quite common and nothing to do with how well you take care of your children. If cases are not reported to the school then your child might get re-infected if another child has them, so it’s good for the school to warn parents to be vigilant.
Apologies if your head is still itching after reading this! I can already picture you putting down your phone/tablet/mouse and checking the whole family as soon as possible. Have fun!
Do you want futher advice on this topic or with any other problems your family is having? Then call our advisors on the FamilyPoint Cymru helpline. The helpline is open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday. They can help you to find the organsiations that can help. Contact on the details below.
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