One of the first signs of a louse infestation is a regular or constant itch. The source of itching is the allergic response to the lice bites, which suck blood from the scalp which triggers an itch reaction to their saliva and feces. But itching can take a while to start because your child might not be very allergic.
2.’Creeps’ in Scalp
We’ve all had a bug in our hair or on our skin, or been annoyed by a ‘ghost itch’ in our hair. The almost undetectable feeling of a bug crawling around the skin or scalp freaks most people out, especially youngsters. A child’s complaint of a creepy scalp might mean she simply has some sand or a curious ant wandering around. But the creeps may also be a sign of lice infestation. Many head lice infestations begin 3 – 4 weeks before the itching begins so the first sign might be a feeling of something moving around on your scalp like ants or a mosquito.
The human scalp is like a tropical oasis for the louse, and once born, lice begin biting and feeding on the scalp. Increased or incessant itching can cause breaks and open sores on the scalp. Regular bleeding and dirty finger nails create a fertile ground for infections. Constant itching can lead to sores, crusting, scabs, and fluid oozing from an infected area. Examining your child’s scalp may reveal sores and crusting before you actually see any lice. If she has longer hair, check the neck area for signs of redness, swelling or infection.
4. Family Member Diagnosed
If a friend or family member becomes afflicted with lice, your chances of catching it multiply tenfold. And like dominos, once one falls to lice the whole family is very likely to get it, if not caught and contained quickly. Once a family or friend is even suspected of having lice, the scalp of every member of the family should be checked immediately. Various over the counter shampoos and topical ointments are available to eliminate lice and if the condition persists, a visit to the doctor for a prescribed solution might be necessary.
5. Lice Eggs (Nits)
Infestations begin with the laying of eggs. If dandruff-like spots appear on your son or daughter’s head, neck or shoulders, try brushing them away. if they don’t brush away like fluff, they are most likely louse nits. If you see white or yellowish bits they are probably empty louse egg casings. If the spots are beige or brown, you might be looking at live eggs filled with larva. Again, a fine tooth comb and patient attention to the scalp are your best diagnostic tools.
6. Fever and Swollen Lymph Nodes
If a louse infestation goes undetected, for example in cases where your child has a high tolerance to the louse allergy, a staph infection can result. In severe cases of infection, lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin may become swollen and tender to the touch. Do a thorough examination of lymph nodes with your child or make an appointment to see your family doctor to confirm and treat a suspected infection.
7. Severe Scalp Irritation
Lice feed on human sweat, skin and blood, causing an allergic itch in the host. A combination of insect bites and scratching can lead to a scalp irritation and inflammation if not treated. Redness and swelling on the scalp will almost always be visible with a lice infestation but may or may not be accompanied by pain or stinking. These human-loving parasites are often found around the nape of the neck and the ears.
8. Sleepless In The Saddle
Lice are parasitic and can be nocturnal, so the constant biting, stinging and frustration can mess with your child’s quality and quantity of sleep. If you notice this type of disturbance or irregularity in her sleep patterns, promptly get the fine comb and check the scalp, nape and ears of your beloved. She may be hosting an unwanted party of guests on her sleepy head.
9. Moody Blues
When the ravages of a louse infection continue for more than a few days in children, it is not unusual for it to lead to crankiness or anger. The itchy annoyance, and persistent sting or flaking can have a significant effect on a child’s mood. Staying closely tuned to the emotional states of your little ones might tip you off, that something pesky has taken up residence among your youngsters. Lice are the most common in children between the ages of 5 and 12.
10. Glad You Noticed
Head lice are fairly common and can spread rapidly in a school population. As a result, school teachers are always on the lookout for lice infestations. If you get a notice from school, there’s a good chance that your little one might already be playing good host to bad bugs. But immediately checking each family member with that fine tooth comb and handy magnifying glass is the best way to get the problem in check and avoid them infesting your household further.
Prevention of lice is better than the cure, but beware, there are other less worrisome conditions that have similar symptoms.