The Truth About Nits

Every year millions of children are left scratching their heads after an infection of nits or head lice.

What are Nits?

Nits are actually the eggs of an insect called the head louse. Head lice are tiny brown insects about the size of a grain of rice. Head lice eat tiny amounts of blood so they need to live near skin. They don't hurt you but after a few days your scalp usually gets very itchy.

Nits are very tiny little eggs which stick to the surface of your hair near the roots. They look like tiny grains of sand and can be yellow, brown or white depending on whether they have hatched or not. Yuck!

Head Lice Myths
  • Only people with dirty hair get head lice.
Actually head lice will live on anybody, whether they have clean or dirty hair.
  • Head lice jump from head to head.
Head lice can't jump or fly. They walk from head to head or are sometimes caught through sharing hats or hair brushes.
  • Only kids can get head lice.
Anybody can get head lice, including adults. Head lice are more common in kids because kids tend to share more things and play closely together, especially at school or at home with their brothers and sisters.

Now we've cleared up those myths up, let's look at what you should do if you get nits?

What to do

If your scalp is feeling a bit itchy or if anybody you know has head lice, the first thing you should do is tell an adult so they can check your head carefully for nits and lice. Don't feel embarrassed, most people will catch nits at some point in their lives. It's best to treat everybody at the same time to stop reinfection so your family and friends will also need to have their heads checked and treated.

Your parents will have to buy a special shampoo or lotion that kills lice. If it's a lotion you'll probably have to leave it in your hair for a while so it can work. Once you wash it out you shouldn't use a hair drier as the special chemicals in the lotion may be flammable.

The next step is to get rid of the nits that haven't been killed by the lotion. An adult should comb your hair with a special nit comb to removes the eggs. Your bedding, hair combs, brushes, coat and hats and cuddly toys should also need washing to make sure there are no lice around that can climb back on your head.

Normally the whole treatment has to be repeated 7 days later in case any eggs survived and hatched into new head lice.

Is there anything you can do to avoid getting head lice?

Not really, but try not to use other people's hair brushes or hair bands and ask an adult to check your hair regularly. You shouldn't worry too much about head lice as they aren't dangerous – they're just an itchy nuisance!

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