Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

What To Do When Your Child Has Lice

Posted on: September 6th, 2017 by California Skin Institute

Did you know that an estimated 6 million to 12 million cases of head lice occur each year in the US among children between the ages of 3 and 11? Know how to identify and treat lice, so that you are properly prepared if you ever find these tiny little pests have made themselves at home in your child’s hair.

What are lice?

Head lice are parasitic insects that can reside on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. They prefer to take up residence close to the human scalp where it is easiest for them to feed on blood.

How do I know if my child has lice?

Symptoms your child may have lice include:

  • Your child mentions feeling something moving in their hair
  • Your child is frequently itching their head
  • Your child has difficulty sleeping (head lice are most active during the nighttime)
  • Your child has sores on their head from scratching
  • You see live nymph or adult louse on your child’s scalp or hair

How did my child get lice?

Head lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person. Anyone who comes into head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice is at greatest risk.

How do I prevent it from spreading?

Avoid sharing personal items that have come into contact with the head and hair of the infested person such as hats, combs, hair accessories, and scarves. Wash bedding, towels, hats and hairbrushes in hot water to prevent the spread of head lice and treat the condition immediately with over-the-counter shampoo to stop it from spreading to other children or adults.

Clothing or items that are not machine-washable should be sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks as lice cannot survive without human blood to feed off of. Vacuum carpeted areas or rugs that may have come into contact with your child’s hair.

How do I get rid of lice?

Lice can be eliminated using an over-the-counter (OTC) lice shampoo called pediculicide.** Some OTC lice shampoo brands include : A–200*, Pronto*, R&C*, Rid*, Triple X*.

Follow the treatment instructions and do not shampoo or condition the hair prior to using the lice medicine.** If 8-12 hours after treatment you notice there are still live lice, but they are moving more slowly than before, do not reapply the treatment as the medicine may take longer to kill all the lice.**

Comb the dead and any remaining live lice out of the hair using a fine–toothed nit comb. These special combs are frequently found in lice medicine packages or sold individually. If the lice still appear active after 8-12 hours, you may try to retreat the infested child or consider other treatment options like seeking medical help.

Does my child need to see a doctor for head lice?

Most cases of head lice can be treated using over-the-counter shampoos.** However, if the lice are not responding to over-the-counter treatments, you’re next option is to see a dermatologist. Your dermatologist may recommend you try a different OTC product or may provide a prescription treatment instead.**

If you are concerned that your child may have lice and would like professional advice, contact your local CSI provider!

*Use of trade names is for identification purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the Public Health Service or by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

**Individual results may vary and are not guaranteed.