Back to school means lice season is here

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:03

Lice season is here. Back-to-school typically signals the time parents should start keeping a wary eye on their children for signs of lice infestations.

The main symptom of a head lice infestation is an itchy scalp from the bites of the lice. The bites can then become infected, and may appear red or crusty, and may lead to your child developing swollen lymph glands in her neck.

"Children with head lice will have gray or reddish brown live head lice scurrying around their scalp," said Alvaro Alban, MD, of New York Doctors Walk-In Urgent Care. "Lice are small, about the size of a sesame seed, and although they don't fly or hop, they can crawl very fast, making them hard to spot."

Another sign that can help you determine whether your child has lice, is finding nits, or lice eggs, attached to your child's hair. Nits are small, oval shaped and usually a yellowish-white color and are firmly attached to the side of hair shafts.

According to Dr. Alban, the treatment for head lice is typically the use of a lice shampoo.

"The main treatments for head lice usually involve using a head lice shampoo, like Rid or Nix, and then patiently and diligently removing nits with a lice comb," he said.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for whatever products you choose to use. Also be sure to wash your child's clothing and bedding in hot water and vacuum to remove lice and nits from furniture, carpets, stuffed animals, etc. For light infestations, or if you are uncomfortable using an anti-lice shampoo, you can try to simply remove the live lice and nits manually.

Nits hatch in 7-10 days and develop into an adult in another 7 to 10 days and can then lay more (up to 100) eggs. It is important to remove all of the nits to break this cycle. Since anti-lice shampoos don't usually kill nits, you have to usually retreat the child in 7 to 10 days to kill any newly hatched lice.

Children are often misdiagnosed with head lice because they have hair casts that resemble nits, or they have dead or empty nits that are far away from the scalp. If you think your child has lice but you don't actually see any live lice, visit New York Doctors Walk-In Urgent Care to confirm the diagnosis.

?e careful before trying "alternative" treatments, like mayonnaise, Vaseline, olive oil or tea tree oil. Although they are natural treatments, they are untested, and products like mayonnaise can be hard to get out of a child's hair (dishwashing liquid is supposed to make it easier though).