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Head Lice

Head lice are small insects that like to live in human hair. They lay their tiny, sticky eggs on the hair near the scalp. The empty egg cases are called nits.
They are very common.

• They only live in human hair
• They cannot fly or jump.
• They do not care if your hair is clean or dirty, curly or straight – they just want a head to live and breed on

They are passed from head to head by close ‘hair to hair’ contact. For this reason they are especially common in school age children who play and work closely together.

There is not much you can do to prevent head lice. The best thing is to be aware of what they look like and keep a sharp lookout for the beginnings of them ‘arriving’.

You may notice your child itching their head but it is not always this obvious.

Getting into a habit of ‘wet combing’ each week can help keep your child ‘lice free’ and will help you treat and lice that appear quickly and before they can get breeding!

  • Wet combing is the fine tooth combing through of wet, heavily conditioned hair from the root to the very ends of the hair.

    Wet combing has been proven to be the best way to get rid of head lice – lice have got resistant to some of the shop bought treatments.

    There are no side effects from wet combing even for the very young, or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

    You will need;

    • Conditioner – it doesn’t matter what sort but you need a lot.
    • A fine tooth nit comb – ask your pharmacist to show you what you need.
    • About 10/15 minutes of free time (up to half an hour for very thick, long or curly hair).
    • Something to occupy your child – maybe a favourite DVD? Or it can be a good time to chat together about other things.
    Shampoo your child’s hair first then condition from the root to the ends of the hair.
    • Leave the hair very wet.
    • Make sure your child is warm and dry.
    • Start combing the hair – go slowly through any knots or tight curls. It will be easier after the first ‘go through’.

    Keep looking at the comb carefully – wipe it on a piece of paper towel regularly. Make sure you do the whole head. You will spot any lice or nits if they are there.

  • If you find any nits or lice either before, or during, wet combing then wet combing is the recommended way of treating head lice anyway – so you will have already done step one!

    You do not need to see a Doctor but can follow these steps;

    • You should check everyone else in the family and if you find any other lice then treat them on the same day.
    • You do not have to treat family members who do not have any lice.
    • You do not have to wash bedlinen toys or clothes – head lice can only stay alive on human hair.
    • Do wash the comb and any brushes carefully after use as they can cling on to the hair on these.

    Each head lice can live on a scalp for about 40 days and can lay about 100 eggs during that time..
    Because they may have laid eggs before you discovered them you need to be watchful for more hatching over the next couple of weeks. It is advised you repeat the wet combing on;
    day ONE, day FIVE, day NINE, day THIRTEEN.
    Check one last time on day 17 if the head is free from newly hatched lice then you can return to weekly checking.

    If some lice are still there this could be because;

    • It was not head lice in the first place ( ask your pharmacist for advice)
    • The person has been re –infected
    • The wet combing was not effective enough. Watch this NHS Video on wet combing *here*.

    If the lice are proving hard to get rid of talk to your pharmacist. Find your local pharmacist *here*.
    They might advise you to use a specialist head lice product. They will need to know the ages of the people in the family who need treating. Be sure to tell them if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Who Can Help?

For support or advice young people, families and professionals can contact:

Just One Number for Norfolk Children and Young People’s Health Services Tel: 0300 300 0123 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Saturday 9am-1pm.

Parents can use Parentline Text messaging service: 07520 631590

Young people aged 11-19 can text Chat Health on 07480635060

Other parents who are going through or have been through this before can be a big help to you, friends or family, or you could join our online forum to speak to Norfolk Parents, click *here* to find out more.

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