advice

itchy and scratchy:
guidance for getting rid of head lice

The idea of creepy crawlies on your child's head is enough to make anyone squirm (and instantly start itching). But head lice are completely normal, and most children catch them at least once before leaving nursery. Just follow this guide to get the all-clear.

child hiding their face

what are head lice?

Head lice are tiny little insects that live in hair, while nits are the empty egg cases that they've hatched from. They're most common in children at primary school, who pick them up from their friends on the playground. Lice and nits are basically harmless, but if you don't get rid of them they can go on living on your child's head for a long, long time. They're itchy, irritating, and generally not a nice thought. They can also spread to the rest of the family and to friends.


how do I know if my child has head lice?

Lots of itching, scratching and general grumpiness will be your first clue. Head lice are really small and can be hard to spot, even if you get up close. They're whitish-grey, and absolutely tiny: the biggest ones are only the size of a sesame seed. The only way to find them is to comb your little one's hair with a special fine-toothed comb: this is called 'detection combing'. Comb over a white piece of paper so that live lice are easier to spot (and kill).


how do I get rid of head lice

You have two options: you can use a special shampoo, lotion or spray or you can brush them all out with a fine-toothed comb. The best head lice shampoo for children claims to kill 100% of the lice on the first wash but it's always worth double-checking a few days later. Use the detection comb and if you find anything, try the shampoo again. These shampoos have strong chemicals in them, so if your child has sensitive skin (or you prefer to avoid chemicals) you can try treating the infestation with a comb.


how does the comb treatment work?

This is the best head lice treatment for babies, as shampoos and lotions usually aren't suitable for children under two. Start by washing their hair, but don't rinse away the conditioner as it's easier to comb with it in. Brush through with the fine-toothed comb at least three times, and do it once every three days for about two weeks. You can stop after three separate comb-throughs with no lice or nits. To stop live lice escaping and crawling into someone else's hair, squish them with your thumbnail.


how to keep your house head lice free

Your little one's head is a lice-free zone, so make sure your home is too. Thankfully, they usually die within 12 to 24 hours after leaving the hair. To be on the safe side, wash bed linens, hair brushes and towels that have come into contact with your baby's head. Keeping head lice at bay is basically impossible: the best you can do is catch them early. Weekly detection combing is the only way to keep on top of it.