Maybe you just discovered that your child is scratching his head and you start thinking that he or she has head lice. Maybe your own head starts itching, too.

When school-aged kids scratch their heads, the most common thought that pops up into our minds is obviously head lice.

We are familiar with school notification announcing a lice outbreak, and we don’t think he could be scratching his head because he has sand in the hair or because just has some more dandruff than usual.

But the truth is, symptoms of lice are often the same as symptoms of dandruff or other scalp conditions. Then, kids may also have an active infestation without showing any signs of lice. Here is what you should know about signs of head lice, and some tips to help you make the right diagnosis, without panicking.

The two most frequent symptoms of lice (also called pediculosis scientifically)

Because lice is not a disease, there are very few symptoms associated to this condition. Lice are parasites that live on our heads, and they are basically laying eggs on our hair and sucking our blood on our scalp. Just like mosquito bites, you may feel itchy, but  you won’t experience any symptom in your body apart from this one.

The most common symptoms of head lice are an itchy head (because of lice’s bites on your scalp) and sometimes a feeling that something is moving on your head.

Are symptoms always present?

Sometimes, kids can have an active infestation and not have any associated symptoms during weeks. Often, you will examine your child’s head before he or she has time to notice any symptom of itching. This is why some kids get treated before experiencing any symptom and will have had head lice without having scratched their head at all.

If parents do not inspect their kids’ heads carefully every one or two weeks, active infestations may go un-noticed and some kids may start having symptoms a month after the first louse arrived on his head.

Some people are not allergic to the substance that lice inject when biting the scalp, and will not feel any itching. This is similar to mosquitos or bees, the bites of which some people do not feel at all.

What to do to be sure you won’t detect an infestation once it’s too late?

We said that symptoms are not always present when you have lice. And it is also true that itching does not necessarily mean that you have lice. So, your best bet is to be sure that you will not base your diagnosis on symptoms.

What you should do is have a schedule to examine your kids’ heads. Before they wash their hair, for example, make sure you check the areas behind the ears and in the neck. This is where lice prefer to lay their eggs.

If you apply this method carefully, you stand very good chances to spot infestations at their very beginning, and treatment will be much easier.