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Ever since my children started school, nits have been a big part of my life! Before having children I was blissfully ignorant to nits, and the constant outbreaks children get at school.
As a GP I rarely see children with nits, as they are mainly dealt with at home or at school, but occasionally I will see a child or an adult with a bad infestation.
Head lice are insects that live in our hair and feed on our blood. The ‘nits’ are actually their eggs, that are stuck onto the individual hair shafts. Head lice don’t harm us, but the idea of them can be quite disturbing. Also they can give you a very itchy scalp, mainly at the back of the head and behind the ears.
Head lice are passed from head to head, so children often pass them to each other when they are sitting close together in the reading corner. Therefore if your child has shorter hair, or has their hair tied back, this may help to reduce transmission.
It is important to regularly look for head lice and nits by separating the hair through the back, sides and top of the head. You may see 1-2mm yellow oval eggs stuck fast onto the hairs themselves. Sometimes you can see the individual insects crawling on the scalp —these are dark in colour, approximately 1-4mm long with wings, but they can’t fly.
Comb through thoroughly and try to pull out the individual insects or eggs, then discard of them in a tissue. Head lice will die when they are not on your scalp, but it is worth putting all your towels in the wash if you find head lice.
The best treatment is combing through with a nit comb and using a head lice shampoo that you can buy from the chemist. My daughter was getting nits so often that I now routinely check and treat her hair about once a week, and this seems to have done the trick. It is also important to treat other members of the household including your own hair. Just the thought of nits make my head itch!