Itchy scalp: are you sure it is head lice?

An itchy scalp can be incredibly irritating, particularly if it has been causing discomfort for an extended period.

Whilst the temptation to scratch the area is very strong, you are as likely to inflame the situation further as you are to relieve your symptoms.

It is important that you understand while you have an itchy head: is it head lice, or something else?

Many people, especially if they have children at school, think of lice when their scalp or their kid’s head is itching.

But there are many other causes of itchy scalp, and there is no need to panic.

First, you need to understand the common causes of the itching sensation in order to know if you have head lice, dandruff or something else.

In most cases, the irritation is caused by inflamed skin, possibly relating to a mild infection. In this case, scratching the area can cause the symptoms to spread across a wider area of the scalp, very rapidly making the problem worse.

Some people can suffer with the itchy scalp symptom at the stage in their life where their hair changes, perhaps when hairlines recede in men, or for women during pregnancy where hair may thicken or fall out and become more thinly spread.

Often doctors will see a redness of the scalp, which can be caused by infection or scratching, so it is important to inform your doctor if you have been using your hands to try to reduce the irritation.

One often overlooked cause of the tingling sensation can be dandruff, which is a fairly mild version of the condition, sometimes caused simply by the skin drying out and flaking away.

This can be relieved by changing your shampoo to a medicated version. If you have already tried this approach, experiment with a few brands, as sometimes different people can find success with a product that proves useful for others.

Then, an itching scalp is the most common symptom of head lice, and if your child’s head is itching, you might want to check for lice.

Before we move onto the treatments available for more serious episodes of scalp itchiness, it is important to note that you should consider getting professional health advice if you also experience any of the following conditions.

Feeling very cold or shivering when others feel warm can indicate blood circulation may be poor, and as a result the skin may not be effectively looked after by the body.

Extreme tiredness can be a sign of a viral infection, and this can result in the body focusing on eradicating the virus rather than the skin care, so your itchy scalp may be a secondary effect.

Similarly, colds and allergic reactions can have a similar effect on the body, so try to identify recent illnesses which may have caused you to feel run down.

Finally, large changes in your weight (either weight gain or loss) can make your body behave in unexpected ways. For example, losing weight may mean your skin needs to tighten up where there used to be fat, causing the itchy feeling.

If the symptoms are temporary or intermittent, treating your condition is most likely going to be straightforward. If you have identified live lice and lice eggs in your hair, you should apply a head lice treatment

If you don’t have lice, start with moisturizing shampoos or changing your current products, as this can be a simple and fast solution. If that doesn’t work, or you have additional symptoms, visit your doctor for some advice. They will not only be able to prescribe lotions or other medications, but also check you over to make sure there is nothing else which needs to be treated to get you back to life without scratching.