Lice in Children

Lice is a common childhood condition that is often spread by close person-to-person, head-to-head contact. Getting lice has nothing to do with kids’ personal hygiene or the cleanliness of your home.

Remarkable Care for Kids

  • Care for lice and any resulting problems: Incessant head scratching from lice can cause skin infections. Pediatricians at Rush offer expert care to children with lice.
  • Multiple primary care locations: Pediatricians at Rush University Children's Hospital are available to see kids at any of our three pediatric primary care locations on the downtown Rush campus in Chicago or at our newest pediatric primary care clinic in North Riverside.

What are lice?

Head lice are parasitic insects that infest children’s hair and feed on small amounts of blood from the scalp. Their bites leave kids' scalps itchy and inflamed.  Lice do not spread disease, but they are contagious.

You can typically find lice and/or nits (lice eggs) on the scalp, hair shaft, around and behind the ears, and near the neckline. To get rid of lice and nits, you’ll need to treat your child with medicated lice shampoos and/or oil treatments to kill the lice. You’ll also need to comb through your child’s hair with a fine-toothed nit comb to remove any remaining nits. Prompt treatment for everyone in your home who has lice will help you avoid re-infestation.

While it is rare for lice to spread from sharing clothes, hats, towels or brushes, it is a good idea to teach your children not to share these items. 

Symptoms of lice

Talk to your pediatrician if your child is complaining about:

  • Itchy scalp
  • Feeling something tickling or moving in the hair
  • Sores on the head from scratching
  • Difficulty sleeping (lice are more active at night)

Care for lice at Rush

Getting rid of lice can be a long, frustrating process. The key is to start treatment when you first detect the problem with the following options:

  • Over-the-counter or prescription medications: Medicated shampoo and conditioner can kill lice and nits. These treatments typically work quickly, but your child’s scalp may continue to itch for several days. If you find lice or nits even after treatment, talk to your pediatrician before repeating treatment.
  • By hand: Children under age 2 should not receive medicated lice treatments. Instead, you will need to remove the lice by hand with a fine-toothed lice comb. You should repeat this process every three to four days until you do not see any more lice or nits in your child’s hair.
  • Oral medications: For lice that are resistant to other forms of treatment, talk to your doctor about oral medications that can help.