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6 Most Common Head Lice Symptoms and how to prevent them

6 Most Common Head Lice Symptoms and how to prevent them
Created on 
April 15, 2017
Updated on 
September 11, 2020

When parents see their school-aged children itching right away, they may wonder if this is one of the early symptoms of head lice. This is not always the case, especially since, in some people, itching is not even a symptom of an active case of head lice until it becomes severe or very severe. No one with hair is immune to lice…not even adults. The fact is, anyone can get head lice if they have even a 1/4 inch of hair. All it takes is direct head-to-head contact with another person who has lice. There are other tell-tale symptoms of head lice you should watch for as not everyone experiences itching.

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Itching is one of the lice symptoms that most people look out for. The itching associated with head lice can be caused by two different factors. Head lice bite causes itching from the saliva from the louse when it bites the scalp - much like a mosquito bite. The other cause of itching is the movement of live bugs on the scalp. Some people may be super sensitive and start itching early in the infestation, while others never have itching. So this is not a 100% reliable way to judge if a person has head lice.


Another of the many head lice symptoms is irritability. This may come as a surprise to some, but it is actually common, especially for those who are particularly sensitive to the sensation of bugs crawling around on their head or to the lice bites. Increased itching and hypersensitivity to what is going on in the person’s head can cause them to not focus and complete tasks. Imagine trying to focus on an important task but being unable to do so because there is a constant, unknown sensation on your head. This leads us to another of the many symptoms of lice in hair.


Itching from head lice at night and living in an agitated state can cause a person to lose important time sleeping, which results in a person being more cranky than they may normally be. Lack of sleep makes it more difficult to focus and over time can have a major impact on a person’s mood. If you notice yourself or a family member has had difficulty getting sufficient restful sleep, they have been crankier than usual, and are complaining of itching, these are sure head lice infestation symptoms that should not be ignored.


head lice symptoms

While lice symptoms on the head are common and expected, another place to keep an eye out for lice symptoms is on the neck. In the case of head lice, a person can develop red bumps on their head and neck. These can become inflamed and cause considerable discomfort. This is often present in severe cases of head lice but can also be visible in persons who are particularly sensitive to cases of lice, specifically their bites, which cause the person to scratch a lot. While red bumps on your head and neck can be symptomatic of other types of skin irritations, it is definitely a symptom that should prompt thorough head lice to check. It would be beneficial to research this type of head lice symptoms pictures.


Some of our clients ask technicians can lice cause sores on the scalp? If you’re dealing with sores on the head, this could be another indication that you may be dealing with head lice. These lice sores are often the cause of head lice bites. Head lice sores result from scratching an itchy louse bite. The more severe the itching, the more intense the scratching will be, and the likelihood of sores increases. Keep in mind that some people do not react to these bites, so if you have other symptoms of head lice but no sores, this does not mean you do not have lice.


After a case of head lice is eradicated, itching and sores from the lice infestation will likely linger for a few days, sometimes even more than a week. Lice sores should be treated like any other bug bite. Keep the area clean and dry. Avoid scratching the area as it can inhibit healing of the sore and can even cause an infection that may require a visit to the doctor. If the sore is bothersome, some find relief with over-the-counter anti-itch creams to minimize itching.


It’s not uncommon for us to hear from a client inquiring what the symptoms of lice to disclose that they have little white balls in their hair are. This could be one of the symptoms of head lice nits. Nits are glued to the strands of hair but are not white. They tend to blend in with the hair color and, when placed against a white background, appear brownish in color. If you have found something white in your hair, and it moves easily off the hair, it’s not a nit. Nits are firmly glued, not easily removed, and do not appear white in the hair. DEC plugs, however, do appear white in the hair and are sticky-like nits. These are tiny globs of oil secretions from clogged glands on the head.


How long after exposure to head lice will symptoms appear? This will vary from person to person. If a person is very sensitive to movement on the scalp and is more sensitive to the effects of the lice bites, he or she may feel symptoms after a week or less. Others may not notice an infestation for one or more months. So there is no clear answer to how long after exposure to lice do, symptoms appear?


If you’ve been fortunate enough to dodge head lice, it would be prudent to do what you can to prevent ever having to encounter it. There are a few practical preventive strategies that we recommend for parents to do to help prevent head lice:

-Avoid head to head contact with others

-Keep the hair tied in a bun or braid

-Keep the hair artificially dirty - we recommend our Head Lice Mint Repellent Spray

-Educate your family on how head lice is transmitted and avoid high-risk situations


This is not an all-inclusive list of symptoms of head lice, and these symptoms can also be indicative of another skin condition. LiceDoctors sure diagnosing your own case of head lice can prove difficult. If you have symptoms, call us at 800-224-2537, and a professional will thoroughly check your hair, let you know if you have lice, and eradicate the head lice problem if there is one.

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