How you recognize head lice infestation

If you suspect head lice, you should check your child’s head carefully. Only early detection and (action) prevents their multiplication and spreading.

Little boy scratches his head

First signs of head lice

As soon as you learn that someone in your immediate environment, at school or at your child’s daycare center has head lice, you should definitely check to see if the little bloodsuckers have also settled on your child’s head.

Often (but not always!) head lice make themselves felt by noticeable itching on the head. This is caused by the louse injecting a small amount of saliva into the scalp with each blood meal.

Scratching sometimes causes small skin wounds, which can become infected and cause bacterial skin infections. If you notice inflamed skin areas when examining the head, please contact your doctor directly.

What you should know about head lice

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Summary of the most important information on the transmission, diagnosis and effective treatment of head lice.

On the trail of head lice

In order to determine whether your child has head lice, the hair and scalp must be examined closely. Pay special attention to the areas behind the ears, on the back of the neck and at the temples, because this is where the louse finds the optimal temperature for the development of its eggs.

However, when just looking through the head of hair, the head lice can easily be overlooked, especially if there are only a few of them on the head. It is assumed that only one in three to one in four head lice infestations are discovered during a purely visual inspection. If you really want safety, the following procedure is recommended:

  • Dampen the hair and apply a commercial hair care conditioner. The care rinse facilitates combing and prevents the lice from running away.
  • Comb the hair strand by strand with a so-called lice comb (preferably a metal comb from the pharmacy or medical supply store); with thicker hair, it is recommended to first go through the hair with a coarser comb to untangle it. The lice comb should then be pulled firmly through from the scalp to the tips of the hair. Strip the comb on a paper towel after each strand to check if it has captured lice, nymphs (young lice) or lice eggs.

Sucking head louse clinging to a hair

If you find lice ..

… there is clearly a head lice infestation that must be treated immediately.

The six-legged head lice are no more than three millimeters in size and are normally gray in color; when they have just sucked blood, they take on a reddish hue (see illustration). They are easily visible to the naked eye.

Treat immediately, otherwise the lice on the head will multiply rapidly (female lice lay several eggs a day)!) and can be transmitted to others.

A combed out nymph on a cloth

If you find young lice (nymphs) ..

… there is clearly a head lice infestation that needs to be treated.

So-called nymphs are a preliminary stage to the adult louse. They are "young lice", so to speak. They do not lay eggs yet and are not so mobile, that is, they can hardly leave the head of their host. Nevertheless, they should be treated immediately, as they can reach the "adult stage" quickly. Since they are somewhat smaller than adult head lice (see illustration), a magnifying glass can be helpful in spotting them when examining the head.

Exception: If you have treatment with lice remedy has already been carried out If your child has head lice and finds "young lice" in the days that follow when combing them out, there is initially no risk of transmission to others. It is then important not to forget the second treatment with the lice remedy (8 to 10 days after the first treatment), so that all are destroyed in time before they can multiply and spread.

Lice family, from left to right: egg, baby nymph, nymph, adult lice, next to it a eurocent for size comparison

If you find brownish-greyish lice eggs near the scalp ..

… they clearly indicate a current head lice infestation that needs to be treated. The 0.8 mm small drop-shaped structures stick firmly to the hair and cannot be shaken off or washed out. Even the narrow-toothed lice comb cannot necessarily catch them.

If the lice eggs are yellowish to brownish, perhaps slightly grayish in color, this means that lice may still be hatching from them. They adhere to the hair near the scalp, as this is the best temperature for the eggs to develop. Lice eggs are especially often found in the temple and neck area and behind the ears. If you find brownish-greyish lice eggs on your head, you usually have lice on your head and should be treated immediately.

Exception: If you After a successful treatment with lice remedy still find brownish-greyish egg shells, but no lice, there is no risk of transmission. But do not forget the second treatment, which must take place 8 to 10 days after the first one. Because only then are the newly hatched lice also destroyed and the head lice infestation is really eliminated.

If you find whitish lice eggs (nits) ..

… these indicate a previous head lice infestation, but this does not necessarily rule out an acute infestation.

So-called nits, i.e. empty egg cases that no longer contain any eggs capable of development, glimmer whitish in color. Since lice eggs that can still hatch into nymphs and empty nits are sometimes difficult to distinguish, the basic rule is that lice eggs found further than 1 centimeter from the scalp are usually empty. They no longer pose a risk of infection.

The explanation is as follows: Head lice lay their eggs 1 to 2 millimeters away from the scalp, the young lice hatch after 6 to 10 days and the hair grows about 10 millimeters a month. So if a louse egg has already moved more than 10 millimeters away from the scalp, the louse has long since hatched and the egg case is empty.

Head lice, what to do? – Talk

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The 24-page presentation provides information about infestation, control and prevention of head lice – including legal information.

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