Everyone associates head lice with excessive scalp itching. Another common issue infested people experience is sores in the head from the bites and scratches.
Sores from lice can put you at risk of complications like infection, so they must be addressed. But what is the best way to care for head lice sores? How can lice sores be prevented? And what can a lice treatment professional do to help with lice sores?
Can Lice Cause Sores on the Scalp?
The answer is yes, head lice make sores on your head. Head lice feed on the scalp of their host multiple times throughout the day. They bite and feed on human blood. Human blood is their sole food supply and source of nourishment.
Like a mosquito, a louse feeds on your blood, but there are differences in their bites. Mosquitoes inject saliva as a numbing agent to feed, whereas when a louse bites a person to feed, only a tiny amount of spit gets under the skin. This saliva does not carry diseases (unlike mosquitoes, or even body lice, which carry the disease known as trench fever). But it can cause an allergic reaction, which is what causes infested people to experience itching. This is why the itching of a single louse bite is not as intense as that of a mosquito, but quantity eventually outweighs severity.
Will head lice cause sores on your head inevitably? Head lice sores are not necessarily present in every case of head lice. Allergic reaction severity, or itchiness, varies from person to person. Some individuals will have absolutely no reaction, while some will experience mild irritation, and there are some people who will experience a more intense reaction, resulting in itching and causing the infested person to scratch more intensely, which will cause more prominent head lice scalp sores. The bottom line is that lice can leave sores on your head. It's not so much the bug bites as it is the scratching that inevitably results from the itchiness.
What Do Lice Sores Look Like?
Keeping in mind that the itching and scratching from the reaction to the bites is what actually causes these lesions to develop, head lice sores on the scalp can be discovered anywhere on the infested person’s head. However, the most prominent places where these lice sores will be found are the areas where lice like to spend most of their time. These would be the parts and areas of the head that provide the most warmth and shelter and where it may prove to be more difficult for them to be found. These areas are found at the back of the head, near the base of the skull, or the nape of the neck where the hairline starts. Another location on the head that provides this warm, inviting environment for head lice would be behind the ears. With regard to girls, be on the lookout for bites in areas where hair may be concentrated in one location, like under the area where a ponytail holder is secured is also a likely spot where bugs will find comfort.
When you see sores from head lice bites, you may immediately know exactly what they are, as live bugs and nits will probably be present as well. You can see from our picture that this person has several bites at varying degrees of irritation. These lesions will be red and inflamed, the area around them may be swollen, and you are likely to find these sores in varying sizes. Smaller lesions may indicate they are from a more recent bite that has not had an opportunity to be scratched as much. Larger ones may have a more prominent reaction from being present longer, and due to the scratching that would be associated with them.
If the reaction to bites is severe, and the itching is not controlled, you may even see some clear fluid or blood coming from the open wounds. Reactions can be more or less severe depending on the individual, so finding other examples of head lice sores pictures may help you to feel more confident in your discovery and diagnosis of sores on the scalp from itching lice bites.
These bites can appear very similar to other insect bites as the reactions are very similar. However, bed bugs, mosquitos, chiggers, and other insects that bite and feed on blood do not occupy, or live on the human head and spread through close contact the way that head lice do. Body lice live in clothing, and bed bugs live in furniture. Head lice live exclusively on human heads, which is why head lice spread through head-to-head contact. Bug bites on other body parts are a sign that you're actually dealing with another species of human lice, or bed bugs. Bed bug bites tend to affect the whole body.
While other insects are an unlikely cause for lesions on the human head, there are other things that can cause itching and soreness in this region. For example, dandruff causes itching, and in severe cases, the scratching may cause the skin to break. This will appear different from sores that are a result of head lice bites. You will notice that there are dandruff flakes surrounding the affected area, and the broken skin will not be around a concentrated “bite” area, rather, the broken skin will be anywhere the itching has been so severe and uncontrolled as to break the skin and cause sores.
How Do You Heal Head Sores from Lice?
We are LiceDoctors, not medical doctors, so we cannot provide medical advice on head lice sores treatment, or prescription treatments for head lice sores. However, there are a few practical things that you can do to help relieve the discomfort associated with lice sores and encourage healing to make them go away faster.
- Step 1: Treat the case of head lice properly. Getting rid of a lice infestation, or at least using a treatment that kills lice and causes the live bugs to die, will prevent additional or new lice bites. Avoid close contact with other people until you are free of live bugs. You will also need to ensure that the lice eggs are gone from the hair, as newly hatched lice will start the problem over. Every single unit has to be removed from the hair to which it is firmly attached, to ensure the infestation does not come back and the person remains lice-free. Keep checking for about a week or two from the last time you see any nits.
- Step 2: Keep the area as clean as possible. Lice don't carry diseases, but all wounds need to be kept clean for health, safety, and healing. To that end, and to whatever extent possible, keep the areas surrounding any lice bites as clean and dry as possible to encourage this healing. While personal hygiene doesn't help with lice treatment, it does help with the treatment of complications of lice sores on the scalp.
- Step 3: Stop scratching! Can lice cause sores on the scalp without scratching? Bites are far less likely to develop into lesions if left untouched. We know it is difficult to not scratch any potential itches that come from a head lice infestation. For some, the itch associated with a case of head lice is like none they have ever experienced before. The urge to scratch lice sores on the neck and behind the ears can be overwhelming. But if at all possible, fight that urge. Having scratched will only exacerbate the condition to cause more itching, resulting in more scratching. And let’s face it, fingernails are dirty, even with above-average personal hygiene. The more you scratch a bite, the more bacteria will be introduced to the wound which can significantly slow down healing times.
While these recommendations may seem simple, they are so important for your health. Head lice infestations do not go away if they are not treated properly. In fact, if you choose to not treat a case of head lice, the population of lice on your head will continue to increase and multiply exponentially. Head lice multiply quickly, as each adult female louse lays about 6-10 eggs a day. Before you know it, you could have hundreds of live lice on your head, biting you and causing more and more lesions. The subsequent scratching may result in diseases like bacterial infections and cellulitis.
What Can I Use to Soothe the Sores from Lice?
Intense itching from head lice rashes can be severe. Some infested people have difficulty performing everyday tasks, focusing, or sleeping because of the pain or itching associated with lice. Contact your family doctor or your dermatology healthcare provider for medical advice on these symptoms. They can recommend an over-the-counter topical cream medication or an over-the-counter pain relief medicine that will help soothe the discomfort while these lice bite sores heal.
Can head lice cause sores on the scalp that get infected? If the sores on the scalp from lice are becoming infected, see a doctor right away to treat you for that. Signs of infection include the presence of swelling, redness, warmth, and pain, sometimes with pus, fluid exudate, crust, odor, radiating streaks, or fever.
If your doctor says it's ok, there are several natural remedies that are also used to soothe itchiness. Traditional remedies include things like topical aloe vera gel, coconut oil, diluted essential oils, oatmeal baths, or cold compresses. While there may not be significant scientific evidence for the efficacy of active ingredients in home remedies, it's rare for them to be very dangerous with limited exposure.
And most importantly, get rid of all the lice! If there are still adult lice in the hair, the allergic dermatitis will likely just continue to worsen. Preventing further biting is more critical than alleviating current discomfort. A professional will be able to treat lice with significantly faster eradication and a lower recurrence rate. Seek a professional who uses lice treatment methods that do not further irritate the scalp.
Can I Treat My Hair for Lice with Open Sores?
We don’t recommend OTC or prescription lice medication on open wounds. An active ingredient like a pesticide or salt can cause further inflammation and discomfort. Additionally, applying harsh or drying chemicals to open wounds can increase the risk of them becoming infected.
To be honest, we don’t recommend these chemical lice treatment methods in general. Instead, we recommend removal by wet-combing as a primary treatment. Wet-combing involves applying oil or conditioner to immobilize the bugs and combing the hair with a special nit comb which is frequently cleaned with hot water or paper towels. While this method requires patience and persistence, it can be effective in treating lice without causing any more harm to the scalp, given proper precautions and the right technique. Professional lice removal is the safest and fastest way to ensure complete eradication of lice, while simultaneously supporting healing of damaged skin.
LiceDoctors Will Help You Get Rid of Lice and Their Bites
Many people are hesitant to use pesticide lice treatments, as they can cause further irritation and damage. OTC pesticides are losing their effectiveness, and they don't kill nits, since they only work on the adult louse's nervous system. They can't even guarantee all adult lice are killed!
Instead, school nurses, parents, and pediatricians increasingly recommend all-natural professional lice treatments. LiceDoctors provides an effective treatment that safely prevents bites from lice, backed by a follow-up plan to ensure that you stay lice-free. Seeking professional advice for persistent or severe infestations is crucial to prevent complications and infections, so don't hesitate to seek help for sores in the head from lice. Book an appointment today!