Updated on August 19, 2020
By Tierna Moser
What Is Head Lice?
I remember the first time my daughter had head lice. She was my only child and I had no idea what I was looking for, much less how to treat a case of lice if she did, in fact, have one. I remember seeing what I thought was a louse (it was very small, so maybe it was a lice baby) and calling my mom, who also had no idea what lice looked like since our family of five had skated by miraculously without getting it while I was growing up. If you are a new or first time parent like I was who has heard the horror stories of families being unable to get rid of lice easily, or who has had experience with head lice as a child, one of the many things that may be of concern would be is there a chance of lice in infants or lice in toddlers hair? First, let’s talk about what lice is.
Head lice are parasites that live only on human heads. Occasionally they can be found in the eyebrows or eyelashes, but this is incredibly rare. They do not like to live, and cannot survive, on the other areas of the body because they need the specific environment the human head provides to survive and thrive. They need the warm, 98.6 degree temperature found on the human head to be able to stay warm, the blood from the human scalp to feed off of, and the strands of hair on a human head to lay their eggs. An infestation of head lice includes nits, which are lice eggs; nymphs, which are newborn lice; and adult lice.
The bugs – nymphs and adult lice - are easily identifiable as there typically is no other bug that inhabits the human head. They are about the size of a sesame seed, appear brownish to translucent colored and have 6 legs. They do not fly or jump, but they do run quickly, so they can be difficult to spot in early infestations because they scoot from the light. The lice eggs (nits) blend in with the hair. When looking for lice eggs, check the warmest parts of the head first, including behind the ears and at the nape of the neck, then move onto the other parts of the head like the crown and back of the head. The eggs will be laid within one quarter of an inch of the scalp on the individual strands of hair. They are tear drop shaped and are glued to the strands of hair which makes them difficult to remove. Often, you will have to use your fingernails, pinch down and slide the egg all the way down the strand of hair to remove it. When removed from the hair lice eggs will hold their shape, and when placed against a white background, like a white paper towel or a sheet of white paper, they will appear tan or light brown in color. You will be able to see a small white hair, or antenna, protruding from one end of the egg.
It is noteworthy that lice do not care how old you are, or your gender or race. Any human with hair, even those with buzz cuts or who are nearly bald, can get head lice no matter what your demographic. Some hair types and lengths do make it more difficult for lice to latch onto and get cozy, but if you have hair on your head, you can get head lice. Head lice are most commonly spread by way of head to head contact with a person who has lice. Since babies and toddlers are so snuggly and need to be carried around, it is not uncommon for them to get head lice. So you can find head lice on a baby head or a toddler head, especially if they have siblings or other close relatives with head lice whom they spend time with. While that is an upsetting thought, remember, while lice are annoying, we are not aware of lice carrying any diseases.
Symptoms of Lice in Baby Hair
There is not a different type of baby head lice or baby nits so the symptoms of head lice in infants and lice in toddlers hair are very similar to the symptoms of head lice on a school-aged child or adult, just a toddler or baby will typically not be able to communicate verbally to someone that something feels off or that her head itches. Because of this, you should be alert to excessive scratching or pulling on or around the head, neck, face or ears. Your newborn infant or toddler will likely be more irritable and cry more because of the discomfort she may feel, leading to loss of sleep for her and for you. Baby nits are very hard to find so you should look for a red rash or tiny bite marks in those areas as well when looking for lice on baby hair. While finding bugs early in a lice infestation is rare, babies’ hair is so fine it is usually easier to spot lice on baby hair. Look for any bugs on your child’s head or in their hair, and spend some time, perhaps when rocking your newborn or toddler, looking through the hair for any nits that may be present. Of course, if you or someone you know has had head lice and been close to your baby or others in your household, you should be especially alert to signs the infestation has made its way to others in the home.
Head Lice Treatment For Babies
If you find head lice on your infant or toddler you no doubt want to treat it as quickly, and safely, as humanly possible. Unlike the go-to for older ones, there is no lice shampoo or lice treatment for babies, much less lice treatment for infants who are newborn. If your child is a younger than preschool age, what is the best option for treating lice in toddlers? Rest assured that you do not need to reach for the chemical treatments that are household names. Remember if a baby or toddler is in the house, you need to be especially careful with lice treatments and pesticides. You should never spray the home for lice, and that is especially true if babies are at home. We cannot stress enough how much we discourage parents from using over the counter pesticide lice treatments on babies and toddlers. We also do not recommend trying prescription lice products or random home remedies for lice treatment on infants unless under the direct and careful supervision of a trusted licensed medical professional. These pesticide treatments bring with them risks and can cause undesirable side effects; especially so for the most vulnerable in the family.
Getting rid of head lice on your baby needs to only include 3 basic things: 1) The removal of all live bugs 2) The removal of all nits in the hair 3) And a follow up plan that will address the life cycle of lice including all live bugs and their eggs. For an all natural treatment for lice in toddlers and babies, you can use either baby oil or another hypo allergenic lubricant oil like olive oil. Applying this to the hair and leaving it on the hair for long enough will aid in the killing of all live bugs on the head naturally, while providing a good lubricant solution aiding in the removal of all of the nits. A good quality professional nit comb can be helpful, but in our experience, the hair of babies, newborns and sometimes toddlers, is so fine that the comb is not able to remove the nits. Because of this, be prepared to spend some time with your baby or toddler hand picking the nits and live bugs from the hair. Since toddlers are known to be fidgety and unable to sit still for any exceptional length of time, we suggest trying to accomplish this task while your toddler is otherwise occupied with something like a toy, movie, or at meal time to be more efficient. Be patient with yourself – this process may take some time but your persistence and follow through will pay off.
We understand, however, that when dealing with babies and toddlers, especially if there are other children in the household, you may be exhausted. We get calls regularly from worn out parents at their wits end with young children and infants. As if they are not already busy enough, they have found head lice on the other children in the home and want to know if their baby can get lice, especially because he or she has barely any hair and is practically bald. As mentioned before, since adoring older siblings and other relatives and family friends in the house usually treat the baby as a play toy, wanting to cuddle and be in close contact with that infant or toddler, if they have a case of head lice, chances are quite good that they will transmit that lice infestation to others in the house, including the baby if she has any hair at all. I have personally visited homes with five to seven family members, all of whom had lice. Your time is precious and your family’s schedule may be hectic. If you feel like your time will be better spent with the other more important things in your household, like spending quality time with your family that require your complete, undivided attention, or if you just need a break, professional help from LiceDoctors is available. Lice technicians have the skill, ability, and patience to spend the time and put in the effort that is needed to completely eradicate a household lice infestation for good in just one visit. Their protocol, while guaranteed to work, is all natural and safe for everyone in your home. Yes, this includes infants and toddlers and even the elderly. Call us at 800-224-2537 and your technician will take care of the rest!