Head lice are very common for young children (ages 3-11).  In fact, nearly 6-11 million cases are reported in the U.S. each year.  The good news is that, once diagnosed, the ailment's treatments are very routine. Following are some common questions and answers about head lice:
    What are head lice?
    The head louse is a very small parasitic insect that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the human scalp.
    How does someone catch head lice?
    Head lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person. Anyone who comes in head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice is at greatest risk. Spread by contact with clothing (hats, scarves, coats) or other personal items (combs, brushes, or towels) used by an infested person is uncommon. Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice.
    What are the symptoms of head lice infestation?
    • Tickling feeling of something moving in the hair.
    • Itching, caused by an allergic reaction to the bites of the head louse.
    • Irritability and difficulty sleeping; head lice are most active in the dark.
    • Sores on the head caused by scratching.
    Treatment Information
    Treatment for head lice is recommended for persons diagnosed with an active infestation. In addition, all household members and other close contacts should be checked.
    When treating head lice, supplemental measures can be combined with recommended medicine (pharmacologic treatment); however, such additional (non-pharmacologic) measures generally are not required to eliminate a head lice infestation. For example, hats, pillow cases, bedding, clothing, and towels worn/used by the infested person in the two-day period just before treatment is started can be machine washed and dried using the hot water cycle because lice and eggs are killed by exposure for five minutes to temperatures greater than 128.3°F. Vacuuming furniture and floors can remove an infested person’s hairs that might have viable nits attached.
    When using an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medication, follow these steps:
    1. Before applying, remove clothing that can become wet or stained during treatment.
    2. Apply lice medicine according to its instructions. Pay special attention to how long the medication should be left on the hair and how it should be washed off. 
    3. Have the infested person put on clean clothing after treatment.
    4. If a few live lice are still found 8-12 hours after treatment, but are moving more slowly than before, do not re-treat. The medicine may take longer to kill all the lice. Comb dead and any remaining live lice out of the hair using a fine-toothed nit comb (Nit (head lice egg) combs, often found in lice medicine packages, should be used to comb nits and lice from the hair shaft. Many flea combs made for cats and dogs are also effective).
    5. If, after 8-12 hours of treatment, no dead lice are found and lice seem as active as before, the medicine may not be working. Speak with your health care provider; a different lice medicine may be necessary.
    6. Continue to check for 2-3 weeks to be sure all lice and nits are gone.

    When treating head lice:

    1. Do not use extra amounts of any medication unless instructed to do so by your physician and pharmacist. The drugs used to treat lice can be dangerous if misused or overused.
    2. Do not treat an infested person more than 2-3 times with the same medication if it does not seem to be working. Always seek the advice of your health care provider if this should happen.
    3. Do not use different head lice drugs at the same time unless instructed to do so by your physician and pharmacist.