If you need to identify head lice, remember you are not necessarily looking for the actual insects themselves. While it is possible you may see one or two of the sesame seed-sized tan or gray insects, it's not common to see the bugs themselves. Instead, expect to find evidence that the insects have been there. When searching a person's head for evidence of a lice infestation, look for the following clues:
If you see the person scratching their scalp or see evidence that they have been scratching in the form of scratches, redness and red lines, you can suspect lice.
Look for tiny raised red bumps. These are lice bites.
The biggest clue of all is finding nits, which are lice eggs. These nits will look like grains of sand or dandruff, only you'll notice they are attached to the individual shafts of hair, usually close to the scalp where the babies will easily find a ready meal when they hatch.
What to Do When You Identify Head Lice
Once you've found evidence of lice, you'll need to recommend head lice treatments. You can suggest over-the-counter lice removal shampoo kits and the use of a lice removal comb or nontoxic natural remedies, such as olive oil or Vaseline. Remind the person who has lice of how important it is to remove every nit and to treat everyone in the household. Encourage them to wash all bedding and clothing in hot water and to seal off unwashable items in plastic bags for two weeks. If none of these lice extermination treatments work, encourage the person to see his or her doctor for a stronger prescription shampoo system. Reassure the person that the presence of lice is not an indictment on hygiene practices. Lice do not discriminate; they will attach themselves to any head, regardless of social or economic status.
Not sure what the telltale signs of lice are? Make sure you check out this primer on identifying different types of lice.
Need to know what body lice looks like? If you suspect you might have body lice, but aren't sure, check out this checklist.
Perhaps you've heard about using mayonnaise to treat head lice. Read this article for the whole scoop.