You usually do not have to guess if your child was exposed to and acquired lice. It’s gross and very contagious, but it is not harmful as lice do not carry diseases. Lice are 6 legged insects that cling to scalp and feed on blood. They also lay eggs (nits) that are glued into the hair. Lice are contagious in head to head contact or sharing hair brushes or accessories. However, lice cannot jump or fly. The most common symptom of lice infestation is itching. If you find you or your family has been contaminated, first notify your child’s daycare or school so that other children in close proximity can be examined and treated. Second, examine everyone in your household, everyone who is infested should be treated at the same time. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend keeping a child home from school because of lice. Children should be treated, avoid close head contact with others and use a fine tooth comb to remove as many visible nits as possible.
Treatment with over the counter treatment is usually effective when directions are followed properly. Often two rounds of over the counter treatment are necessary to treat definitively. Fine tooth combs are effective in conjunction with treatment to pull both lice and their nits out. Another non-pharmacological treatment option that was supported in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2004 treated children by coating the hair with Cetaphil lotion, combing it, blow-drying until it hardens, and shampooing 8 hours later. This had a 95% success rate when repeated once a week for three weeks. Itching may continue for up to a week after treatment is completed because of the allergic reaction to lice bites that lingers. If lice persist, you may need to contact your physician for a prescription strength treatment. Bedding, clothing and stuffed animals should be washed in hot water.
I know you are scratching right now and planning to check your family members, but try to remain calm and know that you can handle the situation if you or your family is exposed to lice.