How to handle head lice: How do you know if your child has head lice?

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MILWAUKEE --  It's one fear every parent has: what do you do if your child comes home with lice? Meijer pharmacists Lauren Darling joins FOX6 WakeUp with how to avoid the bug and how to treat it.

How to Handle Head Lice

What are lice?
• Tiny bugs the size of a sesame seed.
• They are clear or a reddish-brown color and are highly contagious.

How do you know if your child has head lice?
• They may say that their scalp is itchy.
• Some children have red bumps on their scalp.
• Sometimes you will be able to see live lice, but not always.
• Seeing nits (lice eggs) is the best way to tell.
o Tiny yellowish-white oval nits are stuck to the hair shaft and may look like dandruff.
o Unlike dandruff, nits are not flaky or easily removed from the hair.
o Nits may be found throughout the hair, but are most often seen at the back of the head, just above the neck, or behind the ears.
• A common misconception is that kids that get lice are dirty or unhygienic, that’s not true, it really just means that he or she has come in to contact with someone else that has lice.

How do you treat lice?
• The sooner you know your child has lice, the easier it is to treat it and keep it from spreading.
• First, start with an over-the-counter lice product with permethrin 1% (Nix) or pyrethrins (RID, others), both found at Meijer. Your pharmacist can help you decide which is best for you.
• These treatments only kill the live lice, so it is also necessary to patiently comb through the hair to remove the nits.
• Cetaphil (Nuvo lotion) can be an alternative to treatments, but will still require combing thoroughly to remove the nits.
• Your regular household combs and brushes will NOT work to remove lice.
• The comb must be small enough for a hair to get through but not the egg. Meijer offers combs specifically meant to remove lice, and they are also commonly found in lice removal kits.
• Check the hair in one-inch sections. A fine-tooth lice comb can be used to comb out any remaining lice and nits.
• Use a second treatment with the over-the-counter lice product nine days after the first treatment to kill any remaining lice or lice that have just hatched.
• If you still see live lice after two treatments, call your child’s doctor to ask about a prescription. Meijer has prescription lice treatments that can be tried if other alternatives are unsuccessful.
• Carefully check your child’s hair (and other household members’ hair too!) for several weeks after treatment.

How do you keep lice from spreading?
• Lice are most commonly spread from head-to-head contact.
• Lice can also be spread through sharing of hats, combs, pillows etc. and can survive multiple days on these objects.
• As spring approaches, be aware that lice can spread through shared sporting equipment, such as hats or helmets.
• You may want to consider purchasing a personal helmet for your child. Meijer has a large selection of sporting equipment at all price ranges.
• If someone in your household has lice, it’s important to clean key items that may have come in contact with the lice:
o Soak combs and brushes in hot water (at least 130 degrees F for 5 to 10 minutes).
o Wash clothes, bedding, and towels recently used by your child. Use hot water (130 degrees F) and/or dry them in a hot dryer (for at least 20 minutes).
o For items that can’t be washed, put them in the dryer, vacuum them, or put them in a sealed plastic bag for two weeks (long enough to kill the lice).
• Going overboard with house cleaning is not necessary; there is no need to use lice sprays on furniture.