You are here


Lice: Age-by-Age Guide

Baby to Toddler

Although lice is most common in preschool and school-age kids, smaller children can get it too, often from daycare or infected older siblings. When infestation does occur, it can be hard to treat since this age group isn't known for their ability to sit still, and some treatments are not appropriate for children under 3. If you suspect your baby or toddler has lice, talk to you doctor about the most age-appropriate way to deal with it.

Preschool to Grade School

Lice: Prevention

There’s not much you can do to keep lice from finding its way onto your child’s head other than asking him not to share combs, brushes, hats or earphones. But since lice much easier to treat if caught early, why not make a good comb-through a weekly ritual? Done well (with a little detangler beforehand), it can even be a pleasurable experience for your child and help them cooperate if (or more likely when) they do bring lice home. 

Lice: Complementary/Alternative Treatments


Comb Out

Definitely the most time-consuming of treatments (and one that requires a very cooperative kid), the comb out, when done well, can be effective, says Dr. Frankowski. It’s often used in Great Britain where many lice are resistant to chemical treatments. You have to purchase a specialized metal lice comb such as the Licemeister online or at your local pharmacy

Here’s how to do a comb out:

Lice: Medication

There are several pediculicides on the market, both over-the-counter and prescription. Some concern has been raised about head lice having grown resistant to some of the more common treatments, but they are usually effective. In fact, Frankowski believes a lot of times people may think the lice are resistant when in fact they didn't use the products correctly (you typically need to follow up the treatments with thorough nit combing and repeat the whole process in 7 to 10 days to get any live eggs that may have been left behind and hatched since the first treatment).

Lice: Treatment

Lice will not go away on their own, but “it’s very important for parents to understand that these bugs do not carry any infection, cannot transmit an infection and are not that contagious,” says Bocchini. “I know parents want to get rid of them quickly, but it’s not an emergency to treat this.”

Which means you have time to consider your options (although there will be some schools and daycare centers that will continue to not allow a child to return until the lice are gone, in spite of the new AAP recommendations).

Lice: Diagnosis

Your pediatrician or school nurse will part your child’s hair to get a good view of the scalp, where she’ll be on the lookout for adult lice or nits. She may use a special light in a darkened room to help her see the little buggers better, or may catch them on a piece of tape, and examine them under a microscope. 

Lice: Causes

Lice have been around since prehistoric times; they’ve even been spotted on Egyptian mummies. They are not as contagious as most people think; they’re spread by direct contact between individuals (such as when your child is huddled over her desk working on a group art project, or snuggled close to her buddy during story time). They can also be spread by sharing personal items such as combs, brushes, or hats. Contrary to popular belief, they cannot jump or fly from one person to another, and contracting lice has nothing to do with hygiene or how often you wash your hair, says Joseph A.

Lice: Symptoms

A very itchy scalp. An allergic reaction to the saliva of lice causes itching, but only after an initial exposure period. A child who has never had lice won’t start itching until several weeks into the infestation. But when he starts to scratch his head with vigor, or reports a tickly feeling, it’s time for a lice check.