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How Do You Know When the Head Lice are Dead?

Say you or your child has become infested with head lice. Don’t panic! This is a very commonly occurring thing and is relatively easy to treat. Sure, it’s always a bit of a pain to have to clean all the bedding, clothing, towels, and toys, but you can get through it in no time. However, you might be wondering about the head lice itself. How do you know when the head lice are dead? That is a great question, and is a crucial part of treatment. If you do not completely kill head lice, there is a chance they can lay more eggs and continue their infestation. If that happens, you can end up with a big problem on your hands.

Seeing as head lice spread by head to head contact, but also can when someone shares things like towels, combs, clothing, and bedding, you want to be totally sure that you have completely killed and eliminated all of the head lice that have infested a person’s head. Here is more information about identifying head lice and nits, and how to know when the head lice are dead.

First Off: Confirm Diagnosis

treating-dandruffBefore panicking that you or your child has head lice, be sure to confirm that you actually do! While head lice are a fairly common occurrence, they are also frequently confused with other things, most commonly dandruff. Dandruff can also cause an itchy scalp, so the first thing to do is determine what is happening. Dandruff will easily flake off of a scalp, while head lice will not. They grab on firmly to hair and will not budge. That is the easiest way to determine if you’ve got dandruff (or some other type of hair debris) or head lice.

The location of the particles can also help you determine if you’ve got dandruff or head lice. Dandruff is more widespread typically, where as head lice tends to stay in particular areas, namely behind the ears and closer to the neck. Head lice are also incredibly small, around the size of a sesame seed, so they are not always easy to see. Dandruff tends to be much more visible and can range in size. If you’ve got small white or yellowish particles that don’t budge when you brush them: you’ve got head lice.

Once you have confirmed you have it, it is time to start treatment. You are best off with an all natural treatment that does not contain any poisons or pesticides. Common over-the-counter products are increasingly becoming ineffective as head lice build up a resistance to the chemicals being used to kill them. Remember to also wash all of your bedding, towels, and clothes that the infested person has been using.

Understand the Difference: Lice Vs. Nits

Sometimes, seeing if you have head lice is as easy as seeing the living head lice moving around. Now, keep in mind as we mentioned earlier that head lice are incredibly small (around the size of a sesame seed), so this is not an easy job. They can also move quickly and tend to avoid a lot of light, so shining a light onto someone’s scalp might not make your job easier. Instead, go through and use a louse or nit comb to help search more thoroughly. Obviously, if you still see moving head lice, treatment is not complete. However, just because you do not see any living head lice moving around does not mean that they are dead.

In fact, what you might run into instead of head lice are nits, or eggs. The nits will not move and therefore might give you the false sense that they are dead lice and that you do not need to treat the person- but that is not true! Nits will hatch and you will have all new head lice you have to deal with. Again, if you see these small sized white or yellowish particles that do not budge- you more than likely have lice. Start treatment!

Determining Factor: Location, Location, Location

location liceNow that you have confirmed you have head lice, found either living lice or nits and have treated them, how can we confirm they are dead? Simply put: location. Head lice feed off of small amounts of blood from your scalp. Without this food source, they will die. A great way to know if the nits or head lice you find are dead is by seeing how far away from your scalp they are. Living head lice will attach themselves very close to the scalp in order to be close to their food source. Nits will also be found there if they are viable. However, if what you find is more than a quarter of an inch away from the base of the hair shaft, it is more than likely dead.

If what you find is far away from the scalp, typically treatment does not need to continue (or start if you are finding this for the first time). Now, to confirm that all the head lice or nits are dead, you need to be incredibly thorough while looking through the entire person’s head. If at that point you did not find any living head lice moving around, or any nits attached close to the base of the hair shaft, you can feel confident that you do not need to do anything further.

Treating head lice is needed to kill all of the living lice and viable nits found in a person’s hair. Make sure you treat any person with live head lice and viable nits, checking thoroughly with a comb designed for this very job. Make sure before declaring a person is free of lice that there are either no remaining nits, or that what is left is more than a quarter of an inch away from the base of the hair. Be sure to use an all natural treatment that contains no harsh chemicals or pesticides. Finally, wash all clothing, towels, and bedding to finish off the job. You’ll be lice free in no time!

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