How Do I Know If My Child Has Lice: Signs and Symptoms

We know that as parents you constantly worry about your kids bringing head lice home from school, summer camp or sleepovers. If you’ve never had to deal with lice personally, you’re probably wondering what signs and symptoms of head lice are that you should be looking for on your kids. Symptoms may not present themselves in the most common of ways, but there are some things you keep an eye out for. As always, the best prevention is regular hair checks and combing hair with a well-constructed metal lice comb.


symptoms of head lice

Common Symptoms of Head Lice

1. Itching

This is the most common of all symptoms of head lice that you should watch out for without actually checking your child’s hair. While not everyone hosting the critters will itch, it is an indication that should give parents a heads-up. This is the symptom that school nurses and summer camps will keep an eye out for, especially if the child is scratching frequently.

You always want to confirm a diagnosis of lice if you’re being told that they saw your child itching. Usually by the time this happens the individual has built up an intolerance to the bug saliva, and the infestation may have been present for more than a month.

2. Not Sleeping Well

Having an itchy scalp would keep anyone awake, and having head lice is no exception, especially since they are nocturnal creatures. You may find that your child is extra tired in the morning even after a full night’s sleep.

3. Red Bumps on the Scalp or Neck

The gross truth is that head lice feed on blood, so if you find that your child has red bumps on their neck or scalp, it could be because of lice bites. Keep an eye out for red bumps behind their ears, along their hairline and on the back of their neck.

4. The Appearance of Lice and Nits (Lice Eggs) in the Hair

To diagnose if your child has lice, do a thorough check of their hair. Lice and nits can be hard to spot because they can look like dirt or dandruff, and the bugs move quickly in the hair (about 9 inches in 60 seconds). The best way is to detect the buggers is to apply conditioner to damp hair, comb it through with a regular comb to smooth out snarls, then go through the hair with a well-constructed metal lice comb, wiping on a white paper towel between passes.

Adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed and can be reddish-brown to grayish in color. Nits are as tiny as a strawberry seed, are egg shaped and will be attached to the hair approximately 1/8  to 1/4 of an inch from the root, on one side of the hair shaft. They can be beige to black, difficult to comb out and will feel like a grain of sand when you run your thumb and index finger along it. Nits will not budge if you flick or blow on them. You will literally have to scrape one off with your fingernail.

If you do find lice, don’t worry! Don’t tear your house apart. Lice can’t live off the body for more than 24-48 hours because they need to feed on human blood every few hours, so they won’t live on your furniture or in your bedding. If you need any help at all with treatment or advice on cleaning, don’t hesitate to call us! We’ll come to your house and make sure that you and your children are treated without toxic chemicals or harsh medication.

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