Early warning signs of lice: Spotting them before the school does

While brushing her daughter's hair, a mother checks for signs of lice.

Lice policies vary by school and district. Some have routine screenings known as “nit checks.” If the school becomes aware that a student has signs of lice, they will perform a nit check and may send that student home before screening the other students. During the check, an adult (usually the school nurse) checks behind the ears, on the scalp, around the hairline and at the nape of the neck for evidence of infestation.

Here are two key warning signs of lice to help you catch an infestation before your child gets sent home from school.

  1. Persistent Itching and Irritated Scalp

Head lice can cause excessive itching. This itching is caused by a reaction to the saliva lice inject into the scalp when they feed on blood, similar to the way a mosquito feeds. And while itching is the most common sign of lice infestation, some infested people don’t experience it. So it’s important to check your child – whether they complain of itching or not – if you suspect he or she was exposed to lice.

  1. Appearance of Nits or Eggs

Nits are the eggs of head lice and are usually the most visible sign of infestation. A louse attaches each egg to the base of a single human hair shaft. Live nits are usually brown in color and are very well camouflaged in hair. Once they hatch, a white shell remains, which may be easier to spot. The lice themselves are incredibly difficult to see, because they are opaque, and can be quite difficult to spot with the naked eye. Check for nits behind the ears, or in the hair at the nape of the neck, where high numbers often occur. While a visual inspection may be enough to find nits, a more thorough inspection can be done by wetting the child’s hair and using conditioner before running a fine-toothed comb through his or her hair.

For a downloadable guide to performing a head check, including photos of lice and nits in hair, click HERE.

What to do if you find lice on your child’s head

You can purchase lice treatment products at mass retailers, grocery stores or with a pharmacy, typically in the first-aid section. Not all over-the-counter products are the same, though. In most parts of the US, head lice have become increasingly resistant to permethrin and pyrethrins, the active ingredient in many lice treatment products. New innovations in head lice control now provide parents with an alternative way to rid children of an infestation. Vamousse Lice Treatment is non-toxic, pesticide-free product that has no pesticide resistance issues.

A nit comb – a fine-toothed comb used to remove nits from the hair after it has been treated – is included with most over-the-counter lice treatments. This will help remove any lice or nits that were missed during treatment, and clean hair of all dead lice and eggs. This is especially important if your child’s school as a no-nit policy.

After you treat the infestation

A defensive shampoo can help keep your child lice-free following treatment of an infestation. Vamousse Lice Defense is a non-toxic, pesticide-free shampoo that can be used daily in place of regular shampoo. It kills stray lice 1, making  prevention part of your family’s daily routine without fear of pesticide exposure. The rest of the family should consider using a defensive shampoo too, following contact with the infested child.

In addition to treating your child, it’s important to treat any personal or household items that could also be carrying lice. Read tips for cleaning the home and preventing re-infestation HERE.

Catching an outbreak of lice early is vital to helping control the spread of these itchy pests. Check your child at home for signs of lice as part of a weekly routine to help prevent your child from being sent home from school.

Notes:

  1. As shown in lab studies