| 0.4°C Belfast

Head lice hotspots to watch out for at home and school

Nits can be a nuisance during term time. Liz Connor reveals when we should be extra diligent about their spread


Annoying itch: a boy scratches his head

Annoying itch: a boy scratches his head


A check for nits

A check for nits


Annoying itch: a boy scratches his head

Catching head lice is a pretty common part of childhood, especially during term time at school when kids are spending lots of time together in the classroom and playground.

Head lice are tiny bugs, about the size of a sesame seed, which feed on small amounts of blood from the scalp. They spread through head-to-head contact and, although they're not harmful, can cause itching and discomfort, especially for children.

"It's important to check for head lice once a week," says head lice expert Ian Burgess. "An easy way to remember is to set a reminder on your phone, to ensure you don't forget.

"Anyone can get lice - young, old, male or female - so if lice are found ensure you inspect the heads of those around you and ask close family and friends to check, in case the infestation has spread."

Burgess says that while avoidance tactics will not stop you from catching head lice, minimising head-to-head contact can help. Here are a few scenarios where parents should be extra diligent in checking for lice this spring...

1. School

Close contact can occur when children get their heads together over group project work at school. Couple that with the fact that most primary schools have two to three play times a day - where children are inseparable - and you're looking at plenty of prime opportunities where head lice can spread.

2. Sleepovers

Sleepovers often involve late nights, midnight feasts, getting cosy for the latest film or crowding together round a tablet. All these activities involve several children in close proximity, which generates a lot of close head-to-head contact, making it a lice-friendly event.

3. Selfies

Selfies could be another cause for concern when it comes to the spreading of lice. The tendency to snap away to get that perfect shot leaves plenty of time for lice to transfer between heads. As more and more friends gather to get in the frame, the lice can make the most of their opportunity and sure enough the letter home to parents is as good as on its way.

4. Siblings

Besides school friends, children often spend lots of close contact with their siblings, so whether they're sitting around the television, or engaging in a bit of rough and tumble play, there's a lot of opportunity for lice to spread.

If you do find a child has head lice, make sure you treat them with a clinically proven product, such as Hedrin all-in-one shampoo (£14.99 for 200ml), which takes just 15 minutes to work and only requires one treatment.

Burgess says it's also important to remember you only need to treat the hair if you find live lice; it isn't necessary to treat the whole family 'just in case', but you should check everyone with a nit comb - including mum and dad.

Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.

Already have an account?

Belfast Telegraph