Itching — it’s one of the symptoms that set off the red flag that leads to a lice check and the discovery of a lice infestation. After the stress of the treatment is over, some people become concerned when their head still itches. Don’t panic! While itchiness may indicate that the problem has not been eradicated, there are other reasons your scalp may still be itchy after lice treatment.
What Does a Lice Bite Look Like?
Most people are unlikely to even notice one or two louse bites. These parasitic insects have very small mouth parts, which they use to puncture the skin to feed on human blood. Because they're so tiny, the person won't feel them biting, so they don't need to inject a numbing agent like mosquitoes do to remain unnoticed. Over time, multiple louse bites may cause an allergic reaction that leads to irritation and itching. Scratching then leads to further irritation, redness, and sores.
DOES LICE MAKE YOUR HEAD ITCH?
You are settling in with your kids to watch TV for the evening when all of a sudden you notice your younger daughter is scratching her hair. It's probably nothing, right? You go back to watching TV. Wait, is your older daughter also scratching her head? Two itchy scalps...probably not good. You don't want to panic, however, you know how prevalent those dreaded head lice are...does lice itch?
Carefully, slowly, nonchalantly you get up and look at your daughters as close as you dare to go. Truthfully you tell yourself you really can't see anything. It's time to confess to your daughters what you suspect and drag out a lamp so that you can actually see what you are doing. Ughhh, you see things in the hair; are those lice eggs? Do lice eggs itch? Or are there actual bugs in the hair? You can't find any, but...are they hiding?
This scenario occurs every day in families across the country. It can be frustrating for parents to identify lice eggs (aka nits) or find bugs that scoot from the light. Why is it so difficult to find the nits? There are several reasons:
- Nits are translucent and they camouflage in the hair;
- Nits are often mistaken for debris that may be in the hair, such as hair casts, DEC plugs, or dandruff;
- They are very small and unless you have good eyesight, good magnification, and know what you are looking for, it is easy to miss them.
Because lice and nits are hard to spot, the first symptom most parents notice is scratching.
Can You Have Lice Without Itching?
The scalp itching in an early case of lice is due to an allergic reaction to their bites. Many people are not allergic to lice and can be infested for a long time without any scalp itching. Going by symptoms alone when deciding which family members to treat is a mistake. When you actually calculate how long you have lice, you'll find it's usually been contagious much longer than you've been aware of the problem.
Conversely, parents who just got the bad news that their kids have lice often experience psychosomatic itching. Plus, many other scalp conditions can mimic lice symptoms. It can be difficult to differentiate dandruff and lice, and even harder to rule out dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis without the help of a professional.
Additionally, many chemical lice treatments bought at drug stores cause further irritation to the scalp and can make itching persist after successful lice treatments. People may wonder, why is my head itchy if I don't have lice anymore? The main reason someone's scalp would still itch after they've been successfully treated is irritation from the treatment itself. Even non toxic remedies can irritate the scalp.
WHY DO LICE ITCH?
Parents always get confused when we come over and reveal with our special combing checks that the infestation has spread to more family members, who aren't yet showing any lice itching. Why does lice make your head itch sometimes and not others?
Lice itch much the same way other bug bites itch...because they bite the skin to feed on blood, and some people are allergic to the bites, just like some people itch with mosquito bites whereas others don't really. But on top of that, the tiny bugs moving through the hair may tickle the skin and cause a crawling feeling that can feel itchy. In our experience, even just thinking about head lice causes many people to feel instantly itchy. Lice eggs (nits) themselves don't itch at all, since they are attached to the hair (not the skin), don't move (yet), don't bite (yet) and don't contain any known irritants to cause itching.
What's even more important to realize is that this means some people never itch when they get infested, because they aren't allergic to the bites. It is not unheard of for us to treat advanced cases on people who had no idea they have been infested for weeks or even months! That's why we always recommend that everyone in the household get checked while we are there to treat those whom you know about, just in case others need treatment! Checking the whole family by default is one of the reasons why our success rate is the highest in the industry.
Why Does My Head Still Itch After Lice Treatment?
Itching from louse bites is caused by the body's response to the saliva from the bite. Even after all the lice have been removed, there is no quick answer to how to get rid of lice bites. It is common to wonder, how long will itching after lice treatment last? Read on for a few reasons for itching after lice treatment, and some tips on how to stop itching after lice treatment.
Healing Louse Bites
You may experience itching from a resolved case of head lice either from bug bites or from a wound caused by scratching a bite. As your wounds from louse bites heal after treatment, the potential for itching remains, but the itchiness usually resolves in a day or so. The itching after treatment can be severe for some people, however, especially if the head lice infestation was severe, so these people seek relief from the itching that results.
What to do:
We cannot provide medical advice on how to stop itching from lice bites after treatment, but there are some practical things you may do to be more comfortable as your scalp heals from sores caused by scratching and other lice bites on neck treatment.
- Keep the area clean.
- Stop scratching, so the scalp irritation can heal. Very young children who can't help but scratch might benefit from having their nails covered with gloves.
- Keep fingernails short, smooth, and clean to avoid getting germs and dirt during inadvertent scratching.
- Apply a cold compress.
- Apply an anti-itch cream or use whatever over the counter antihistamine you'd normally use.
- If severe symptoms persist after treatment, contact your physician.
Dry Itchy Scalp After Lice Treatment
Another cause of itching after lice treatments is a dry scalp. Any time you do anything out of the ordinary to your hair, your scalp may become irritated. Pesticide shampoo treatment can contribute to irritated skin, especially if you have been battling the issue for a while, using different over-the-counter pesticide treatments, prescription pesticide treatments from a physician, other home remedies that may have failed, and essential oils that may be used to prevent head lice.
Some people tend to wash their hair more frequently when they have lice or after head lice treatments, thinking that will help resolve this issue — which is not the case. All of these can dry out the scalp causing post-treatment itching and irritation that will resolve itself once the treatments cease.
What to do:
- Go back to your normal hair care routine after treatment.
- Consider adding a dandruff shampoo, gentler shampoo, or non irritating, scalp-friendly conditioner.
- Apply some oil to your hair and scalp before you shampoo.
- Avoid doing a second treatment of OTC pesticide shampoo inappropriately, as they are not intended to prevent lice, reduce itchiness, or kill nits.
Sometimes itchiness is what we call “in the head, not on the head”. Some people are itchy just by thinking about the concept of having head lice. Some people after lice treatment still feel crawling on the scalp because their self awareness is on high alert. They become hypersensitive to everything that is going on on their heads. This can actually sometimes cause severe itchiness. For more information see our blog: “Do I Have Lice Or Am I Just Paranoid?”.
What to do:
- Saturate the scalp and hair with olive oil overnight. If there were a bug in the hair, this safe all-natural solution would smother it. If the crawling feeling still persists, you can conclude it's not from a live bug, at least not this time.
- Practice meditation and other grounding techniques to reduce general anxious feelings.
- To avoid ever having to deal with head lice, use a repellent product, such as our Mint Repellent spray, shampoo, and conditioner.
You Might Still Have Lice
Unfortunately, some lice treatments are not effective, or may not have been completed as directed. If this is the case, it’s possible that you might still have lice. If your scalp is very sensitive, the feeling of the bugs crawling around on the head and the itching from lice bites can turn your stress up to max levels. If you’ve found that this is the case, and you cannot stand the thought of another failed treatment, consider reaching out to lice experts.
Is It Normal to Still Be Itchy After Lice Treatment?
Still wondering why does my head still itch after lice treatment?
- After the insects are gone, allergic reaction to bites persists, just like mosquito bites itch after the mosquito leaves. This irritation should improve over the next few days.
- You may still itch after lice treatments because treatment itself caused irritated scalp. Can lice shampoo irritate your scalp? Many people get scalp irritation from reactions to lice shampoo treatment. This may be the issue if you itch even more after a second treatment. Worsened scalp irritation is less common with more human body-safe treatment, like nitpicking and natural oils, but even the mechanical irritation of combing and dryness from washing natural oils out may contribute to why you still itch after being treated.
- An incomplete treatment can mean you still itch because you still have lice. OTC lice treatments from drug stores are incomplete without nit removal.
How Long Will My Head Itch After Lice Are Gone?
After going through the process of treating your family for head lice, you’re likely left wanting to know how long does scalp itch after lice treatment. Everyone is different, so there is no one size fits all answer to help you know how long will scalp itch after lice.
However, there is an end in sight. In most cases, after successful lice treatment is completed, itching from lice bites often resolves itself after a few days. Itching from dry scalp usually resolves itself within a couple weeks. Scabs from excessive scratching heal within 4-6 weeks. In the case of psychosomatic lice symptoms, the more reassured you are over time that the lice are gone, the less your self awareness and scratching, and the less psychosomatic itching you'll experience. Whether you’re experiencing dry scalp, psychosomatic itching, allergy to louse bites, or even if your case of lice isn’t completely gone, the itching will not last forever.
How to Stop Itching After Lice Treatment
No doubt, you are ready for the itching to be gone. As your scalp takes time to recover from post-treatment irritation, there are some things you can do to help repair a dry scalp after lice treatment, even if you have a super dry scalp after lice treatment.
- Try a dandruff shampoo. Scalp dryness is a common condition, so there are many options on the market that can help take care of the itchy scalp.
- Try deep conditioning treatments. These types of treatments can help soothe the scalp and help replenish oils to the hair that may have been stripped during lice treatment.
- Natural oils can help. If you want a cost-effective deep conditioning treatment without the chemicals and potential side effects, natural oils like coconut or olive oil can help soothe irritated scalp and moisturize the hair.
- Lay off the shampoo for a couple of days. This can allow the scalp's natural oils to replenish.
- Stop making changes to your hair care routine. Give your scalp a chance to “normalize” itself before trying out new products to avoid further irritating the scalp.
- An over the counter antihistamine might help. Try whatever oral or topical antihistamine you'd normally use for other itchy problems, or whatever your doctor recommends.
Contact Our Head Lice Experts If You Need Help
Head lice treatment can be challenging. Parents often worry that they missed something, and the problem will come back. Parents may also begin to lose hope when scalp itching persists even after a second treatment and beyond. Because itching after head lice treatments is so common, it's so hard to know if the head lice treatment succeeded or failed until it's too late, and the head lice infestation has returned full-force. If there's a chance your family is itching after head lice treatments because you still have lice, call LiceDoctors to book an appointment for a professional lice check for the whole family, and non irritating, safe treatment for all.