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Head lice, or pediculosis capitis, is caused by the infestation of the hair and scalp by Pediculus humanus capitis (a.k.a. the head louse). These are tiny parasitic insects that infest the human scalp and hair, feeding on small amounts of blood from the scalp. It is not unusual for an entire family unit to be affected by lice, due to the close living quarters. While anyone can get head lice, they are particularly common among schoolchildren due to their close interactions and sharing of personal items.
Lice spread through direct head-to-head contact and occasionally through shared items like combs, brushes, hats, and hair accessories. Infestations often lead to itching and discomfort as lice bites can cause an allergic reaction. Frequent scratching can lead to secondary infections and skin rash. Detecting lice can be done by closely examining the scalp and hair for lice, eggs (nits), or small white or yellowish particles attached to the hair shafts.
Medications such as over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription-strength shampoos and lotions containing insecticides can help relieve head lice infestations. In addition to treatment, efforts to educate children and parents about lice prevention measures—like avoiding head-to-head contact and not sharing personal items—can significantly reduce the spread of lice.
Itching on the scalp, neck, and behind the ears
Small red bumps on the head, neck, and shoulders (caused by scratching)
Adult lice visible on the scalp or hair, often grayish-white or tan in color
Lice eggs or nits visible close to the scalp, usually oval and firmly attached to hair strands
Small white or black particles (lice eggs or feces) on pillows or clothing
It's important to note that some individuals with head lice might not experience an itchy scalp immediately, so regular checks of the head and hair can help identify infestations early. If you suspect head lice infestation, proper treatment and hygiene measures should be taken to eliminate the lice and their eggs.
Topical pediculicides (such as permethrin cream) - Permethrin is a synthetic chemical that is applied directly to the scalp and hair, left on for a specified time, and then thoroughly rinsed out.
Oral ivermectin - Ivermectin is an antiparasitic medication that is taken orally and may require a second dose after a week to ensure the complete elimination of the infestation.
Our board-certified doctors will determine the best prescription-strength OTC lice treatment medication to treat your lice infection. We prescribe medication that is safe to use on children two months or older.
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While there's no instant fix, effective treatment involves using prescription or over-the-counter pediculicides, like permethrin cream, as recommended by your healthcare provider. These products are designed to eliminate lice and their eggs. Thoroughly cleaning personal items, such as combs, bedding, and clothing, is also essential to
While there's no instant fix, effective treatment involves using prescription or over-the-counter pediculicides, like permethrin cream, as recommended by your healthcare provider. These products are designed to eliminate lice and their eggs. Thoroughly cleaning personal items, such as combs, bedding, and clothing, is also essential to prevent reinfestation.
Yes, you can treat lice at home using appropriate medications. However, it's important to consult a healthcare professional for accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Over-the-counter treatments or prescription medications like ivermectin might be necessary for effective at-home treatment.
To check for lice, closely examine the scalp and hair, particularly around the nape of the neck and behind the ears. Look for adult lice, nits (eggs) attached to the hair shafts near the scalp, and any red bumps caused by scratching. A fine-toothed comb can help detect lice and nits by combing through small sections of damp hair.
Head lice cannot survive for long away from the scalp. While it's unlikely for lice to live in pillows, it's advisable to wash bedding, pillowcases, and personal items in hot water and dry them on high heat to kill live lice that may be present.
Remember that lice are a common but manageable issue. Obtaining a prescription to treat lice and adhering to proper treatment and hygiene measures are key for effective lice removal.