By Olivia |
DID your kid bring home from camp more than summer memories? I’m talking about head lice.
If she didn’t, she’s not out of the woods yet. Back to school means more chances to pick up these unwanted parasites.
Some experts have estimated that lice will affect one in every 10 children. It’s most prevalent between the ages of 3-12, with girls getting infected more often than boys. That may be because girls are more likely to share hair brushes, combs, hair clips, pony tail holders, and other hair accessories.
But any close contact can, pardon the pun, louse things up. Your child could get head lice during organized sports activities or simply by wrestling with an infected pal on the family room floor. A sleepover provides ample opportunity for these pests to hitch a ride onto your kids head. Carpeting, pillows, stuffed animals, upholstered furniture can be a point of transfer if a lice-ridden child has recently rested his head on them.
There are three stages to look for.
Nits are eggs. You’ll find these white or yellowish little ovals clinging for dear life to your child’s hair near the scalp. Dandruff or other debris can be mistaken for lice eggs, so you may need to whip out a magnifying glass to be sure. But any suspicious speck that moves around freely is not an egg – they’re practically cemented to the hair shaft.
In about a week, the nits will hatch. The babies are called nymphs and because they need blood to survive, they’ll begin biting your kid’s scalp so that in another week or so, they’ll become full-grown adult lice.
The adults are about the size of a sesame seed, with the females being larger than males. Their color ranges from a dingy white to warm tan color, but can look darker when they’ve chosen a brunette head of hair to call home. They are also out for blood, but can survive up to two days without it if they should find themselves stuck inside a baseball cap or on the back of a sofa. Their lifespan is roughly 30 days.
Itching is the most obvious sign. Your child may also get a tickling sensation or actual feel them moving about in his hair. Your child may be embarrassed to mention it to you, so if you see him scratching a lot check for head lice.
Eggs, or nits, are easier to find as they are firmly affixed to the hair shaft, usually near the scalp. (If you find nits 1/4″ or so away from the scalp, you’re dealing with an older infestation.) Nymphs or adults, on the other hand, will race away from your fingers. They tend to like the areas behind the ears and at the back of the neck.
Head lice is nothing to be ashamed of – an infestation is not a reflection on hygiene or social status – and they don’t carry disease, but they are certainly a nuisance. And the sooner you find out the better as the lice will have had less of a chance to spread to other family members. (Fido and Kitty, however, are OK – the little vampires like human blood.)