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What are the signs of head lice?

While itching and scratching are telltale signs of lice, these actions may not start immediately and as much as 50 percent of the population never itches at all with lice. Depending on how sensitive a person’s skin is, he or she may not feel anything for up to a few weeks (or at all).

Children will sometimes complain of things tickling or moving around their heads and hair.

Bumps and rashes can occur on the scalp, from mild to moderate or even severe. Frequently, scratches and scabs will be seen on the scalp, which generally result from scratching where the lice have eaten (and have perhaps left some salivary residue to which some people have an enhanced sensitivity or allergy). The more severe cases might necessitate an oral antibiotic.

Unless the infestation is significant, it’s more common to see nits attached to hair (rather than adult lice or nymphs on the head). The nits may look like dandruff but cannot be removed by brushing or shaking.

Other symptoms may include low-grade fever, bags under the eyes, swollen glands, a rash at the nape of the neck, and falling asleep during the day. (Lice are nocturnal and more active at night, which can interrupt a good night’s sleep.)