Being infested with lice is no fun. Lice are itchy parasitic insects that infest the scalp to drain small amounts of blood from their host. While infected with lice, one must be extremely careful not to let the infestation spread. While it is annoying to have lice, it is not an impossible problem to solve. With careful treatment, lice can be isolated and eradicated without too much difficulty.
Lice present as tiny bugs, roughly sesame seed-sized, that often match the color of the hair they are in. Nits, or lice eggs, are similarly of variable color, and show as tiny ovals attached to the bases of hair strands. The first thing to do if you suspect that you or someone you know is infested with lice is to check visually for signs of the infestation.
Look for lice and nits in places where the hair is thinnest, such as the base of the neck and behind the ears. Hair acts as effective camouflage and cover for lice, so areas with thin hair provide the most reliable opportunity to spot them.
Once one person in a household is confirmed to have head lice, it is important to check everyone else who lives in the house, as well as anyone else who has been in close contact with them recently, or shared clothing or bedding with them.
Lice most commonly spread by crawling directly from head to head, but can also live for up to 24 hours without the scalp as a food source. This means that sharing hairbrushes, combs, shirts, hats, pillows, blankets, and anything else that touches the head can be a vector for infestation. The sooner you know everyone who is infected, the more likely it is that you will be able to prevent further spread.
Once you have tested everyone for lice and nits, treat everyone involved for head lice. The most common treatment is a simple anti-lice shampoo, available at most grocery and drug stores. This shampoo kills the lice over the course of a few days. Make sure to read the instructions carefully; typically an infected person will keep the shampoo in their hair for several minutes before rinsing it out, and will repeat the process multiple times to ensure that the infestation is fully gone.
Continue with the recommended course even if you think the lice are gone; there may be a few lice left that will be able to repopulate if they are not fully wiped out. Once the infestation is gone, make sure to wash all bedding, clothing, stuffed animals, hats, etc. that may have been infested.
Lice are a pain, but getting rid of them is not so difficult if you approach it methodically and carefully. The most important thing in a lice infestation is to identify all infected parties quickly and take steps to ensure that nobody else becomes infested. Lice are easy to deal with but very good at finding new hosts, so care is required to avoid starting an epidemic!