Head lice, common in children, are small insects that infest the scalp, behind the ears, and the back of the neck. These tiny creatures bite the skin to feed on blood, causing itching and discomfort. While having lice may be unpleasant, they do not spread diseases.

The thought of having lice is often met with disgust. Unfortunately, these bothersome critters are a frequent issue among young children, with an estimated 6-12 million infestations occurring each year in the United States alone for children between the ages of 3 and 11. If you notice your child excessively scratching their head or if you suspect lice in their hair, pay a visit to your local Vital Urgent Care center. Our friendly medical team can quickly diagnose a head lice infestation and provide helpful advice for treating these itchy and irritating pests.

What exactly are lice?

They are tiny insects, about the size of a sesame seed, that feed on human blood and reside on the scalp, neck, eyelashes, and eyebrows. While lice do not transmit diseases, they can be bothersome. They spread through direct head-to-head contact and can survive temporarily on clothes, hats, bedding, brushes, or combs.

Lice infestations are more prevalent among young children, particularly those in daycare and elementary school, due to their increased head-to-head contact during play and learning. It's important to note that lice infestations are not caused by poor hygiene or uncleanliness, and they cannot be transmitted by dogs, cats, or other pets.

Symptoms of lice often include the visible presence of lice in the hair, which can be seen with the naked eye or more clearly with the help of a magnifying glass. Combing wet hair makes it easier to spot these tiny troublemakers. Other symptoms include itching of the scalp, behind the ears, and at the back of the neck, resulting from an allergic reaction to louse bites.

To treat lice, you must take action as they do not go away on their own. When you suspect lice, follow these steps:

  1. Have it diagnosed by a doctor or visit an urgent care center like Vital Urgent Care.
  2. Inform your child's school.
  3. Check the rest of your family for signs of lice.
  4. Treat all individuals with lice simultaneously.

Typically, lice can be treated at home using over-the-counter (OTC) treatments, such as medicated shampoos or rinses containing chrysanthemum extracts or synthetic pyrethroids. Follow the age recommendations on the packaging carefully. Additionally, some people use fine-tooth combs to remove lice and nits. It is often recommended to repeat the treatment after 9 to 10 days.

Pay attention to any excessively scratched bites, as constant scratching can break the skin and lead to infections such as cellulitis. Furthermore, seal bedding and stuffed animals in plastic bags for several days. Lice require human blood to survive, and without it, they cannot live for long. Sealing them off from their food source and preventing contact with other people is crucial.

You may have heard of "super lice," which are lice that have developed resistance to common OTC treatments containing pyrethroids. These hard-to-treat lice are found throughout the United States. While they can still be treated with OTC or prescription shampoos and rinses, it may require additional effort and assistance from a local healthcare provider.

Preventing lice infestations can be achieved by teaching children to avoid head-to-head contact with their friends and classmates. Additionally, ensure that everyone in the family refrains from sharing brushes, hats, and hair accessories.


1CDC: Parasites – Lice – Head Lice. Epidemiology & Risk Factors. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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