Yikes! My child has lice

Posted on 30 December 2019

The last thing any parent wants is a lice infestation. Here’s how to treat lice when it occurs.

As Dr Katie Yazbek, a general practitioner at Mediclinic Bloemfontein, explains, lice are tiny, wingless blood-sucking parasites that are not always easy to see with the naked eye. They don’t care if your hair is squeaky clean or dirty, so rest assured that if your child has lice, it doesn’t suggest poor hygiene. “Lice are the adult parasite and nits are the unhatched eggs that are usually easy to spot and cling firmly to the hair shaft,” Dr Yazbek adds.

Warning signs that your child has lice are an itchy scalp and inappropriate scratching, at first around the sides and the back of the scalp and later of the whole scalp. “Examine their hair carefully in sections with a magnifying glass to identify the lice and nits,” Dr Yazbek says.

If the parasites are present, treat your child’s hair with an antiparasitic preparation that is left on the hair overnight and washed off the next morning. “The treatment must be repeated after a week to kill any nits that were left behind and have subsequently hatched,” says Dr Yazbek. “The nits must also be combed out with a very fine-toothed comb, section by section. Blow-drying and flat-ironing your child’s hair also kills the lice and limits the extent of the infestation. All pillows, linen and personal items including clothing also need to be washed in hot water and ironed. After successful treatment, sprays and shampoos with special plant oils can prevent reinfestation.”

Lice are spread from infected humans by head-to-head contact, combs, brushes, hats and clothing. They can survive for short periods on fabric (about 48 hours) and for a few minutes on plastic objects. These parasites are also known to crawl from one child’s head to another if in very close proximity or direct contact.

To prevent your child from getting lice, make it clear they should never share combs, hats, hoodies, towels, pillows or bed linen with someone who may have lice. Ensure they don’t rest their head on upholstered furniture in public places and they should avoid sharing earphones and headphones.

“If your child has lice, do not send them to school until the infestation is controlled,” says Dr Yazbek.



In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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