LICE (Pediculosis; Head Lice; Body Lice; "Crabs")
(Pediculosis; Head Lice; Body Lice; "Crabs")
Pediculosis is a skin inflammation caused by tiny parasites (lice) that live on the body or in clothing. Body parts involved include hairy areas anywhere--especially the scalp, eyebrows, or genital area--and skin -- especially areas in which clothing is in close contact with skin, such as the shoulders, waist, genital area, or buttocks.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSItching and scratching, sometimes intense and usually in your child's hair-covered areas.
Eggs ("nits") on hair shafts.
Scalp inflammation and matted hair.
Enlarged lymph glands at the back of the scalp or in the groin (sometimes).
Red bite marks and hives.
Tiny (3mm to 4mm) parasites that bite through your child's skin to obtain nourishment (blood). The bites cause itching and inflammation. Some lice live on skin, although they are difficult to see. Others live in clothing near skin. Eggs (nits) adhere to hairs.
RISK FACTORSCrowded or unsanitary living conditions.
Family history of lice.
Sexual intercourse with an infected person.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEInstructions for your child:
Bathe and shampoo often.
Avoid wearing the same clothing more than a day or two.
Change bed linens often.
Don't share combs, brushes, or hats with others.
Your own observation of symptoms. You may see nits (like tiny footballs) on the side of your child's hairs.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSInfection at the site of deep scratching may cause diseases such as typhus (rare).
Usually curable with medicated creams, lotions, and shampoos. Allow 5 days after treatment for your child's symptoms to disappear. Lice often recur.
HOME CAREThe following measures apply to all members of the household:
Use medicated shampoo, cream, or lotion prescribed by your doctor.
Machine-wash all clothing and linen in hot water. Dry in the dryer's hot-air cycle. Iron the clothing and linen, if possible. Washing removes the lice, and ironing destroys nits.
If you don't have a washing machine, iron the clothes and linen, or seal for 10 days in a plastic bag to kill lice and nits.
Dry-clean non-washable items or seal in a plastic bag for 10 days.
Boil articles such as combs, curlers, hairbrushes, and barrettes.
Hair does not have to be shaved.
MEDICATIONWet the child's hair. Apply 1 tablespoon of shampoo. Lather for 4 minutes, working the lather well into the scalp.
If shampoo gets in the child's eyes, wash out immediately with water.
Rinse the child's hair thoroughly and towel dry. Don't use this towel again without laundering.
Comb the child's hair with a fine comb dipped in hot vinegar to remove the lice. The comb must run through the hair repeatedly from the scalp outward until the hair is completely free of nits.
A single application of shampoo is effective in more than 90% of cases. Don't use more frequently than recommended, because the shampoo may cause skin irritation or be absorbed into the body.
If the lice infect eyelashes, they must be removed carefully by your doctor. The prescribed medications should not go into the eye or on the eyelashes. You may apply petroleum jelly to the child's eyelashes for 7 or 8 days after removal of the lice.
Your doctor may prescribe anti-lice (pediculocide) cream, lotion, or shampoo. Apply creams or lotions to your child's infected body parts according to instructions. To use the shampoo:
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes, after treatment has been completed.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child, or anyone in your household, has symptoms of lice--or if symptoms recur after treatment.