Head Lice & Back to School

It's a wonderful, exciting time if your child is starting school. For older kids, getting back to school means new uniform and school bags, and an end to summer schemes and whatever else they've been up to, to fill their days. 


For us at Gordons Chemists, Back to School means Head Lice.


We typically (around this time of year when children return to school) will see a massive uplift in requests from parents - information and advice on the detection and treatment of head lice.


Head Lice


What are Head Lice?


Head lice are tiny grey/brown, wingless insects. They're roughly the size of a pinhead when hatched, and of a sesame seed when fully grown. Head Lice are a common problem - particularly in school children who are 4-11 years of age (think primary school, although anyone can be affected).


(this is the bit that I could have - but thought better of it - posted an up-close picture of head lice... you can always Google it for yourself!)


Contrary to popular belief, Head Lice can't fly or jump (nor can they swim, cycle or drive!). They're spread only by head-to-head contact - they can climb from the hair of an infected person to the hair of someone else. That's why schools and after-school clubs are perfect environments for Head Lice to head-hop - kids all of a sudden are in much closer contact with each other than they have been over the summer months. 


Having head lice has nothing to do with personal hygiene, they can live on all types of hair and no preference exists between clean or dirty hair.


Head Lice


How do I know if I or my child has Head Lice?


The most widely suffered symptom of head lice is an itchy scalp. This is not caused by the lice biting, but by an allergy to the lice. However, not everyone is allergic to head lice, so you or your child may not notice a head lice infestation.


Detection is crucial, as only those people with live lice should be treated.


Using a special fine toothed comb (head lice detection comb) wet-comb the hair onto a white piece of paper. If an infestation is present you will see live lice or eggs. This should be treated as early as possible.


Head Lice


How to treat Head Lice


Initially, try wet combing the hair every couple of days for 2 weeks to remove the lice and eggs.


If this isn't successful you should try a mediated lotion or spray. There are a number of products available and it is important that they are used according to the manufacturer’s directions. These include the insecticide malathion (Derbac M), and non-insecticidal silicone based products, such as Hedrin.


It is worth noting that the above treatments for head lice, after an infestation has been confirmed, are available on the Minor Ailments Service throughout the pharmacy network in Northern Ireland.


This means that there is no need to visit your GP for a prescription. You can head straight to your local pharmacy to obtain treatment and advice on how to get the greatest benefit from whatever product is recommended.

The products described are available at most pharmacies, and Gordons Chemists does not endorse any individual product. Always consult your pharmacist in relation to your individual symptoms.