Is It Really Lice? Other Causes of Itchy Scalps

Your daughter won’t stop scratching her scalp. You heard that someone at her school has lice, so your first thought is that she has lice, too. You rush to the store to buy all the lice-busting solutions you can think of.

Before you jump to conclusions, make sure lice are really the cause of the itchiness. Let’s look at other common causes of itchy scalps.

1. Dandruff

Your child’s itchy scalp may be simply due to a common condition called dandruff. Dandruff occurs when yeast builds up on the scalp. It causes an itchy sensation and causes the skin to flake off.

You can tell if your child has dandruff if you see tiny flakes of skin in his or her hair. Usually, you can remove the dandruff within a short time period by using an anti-dandruff shampoo. If that doesn’t work, see a dermatologist for a prescription shampoo or cream.

2. Allergic Reaction

Perhaps your child’s skin is experiencing an allergic reaction to his or her shampoo or another hair product. Your child might feel a burning sensation on his or her scalp along with itchiness.

If your child recently used a new hair product, that hair product might be to blame. If symptoms persist, see a dermatologist.

3. Dirt

The cause of your child’s itchy scalp could be something as simple as dirt. Perhaps he or she was playing on the ground and got tiny specks of dirt and debris in his or her hair. Washing his or her hair will quickly remove the problem.

4. Eczema

Eczema is an allergy-related condition that can cause itchy, red, and irritated skin. It can even spread to other areas of your child’s body, such as the neck and face.

Using shampoo and lotion may be all it takes to treat mild eczema. Taking short showers in water that is warm but not hot may also help, as can using a humidifier to create a more soothing environment for irritated skin. If the problem persists, see a dermatologist for a medicated cream or an oral medicine.

5. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. An overactive immune system can cause skin to become inflamed. It also causes the body to produce new skin cells, which causes old skin cells to push to the surface. Thus, you’ll see red or silver-gray patches on the scalp or elsewhere on your child’s skin. You may also notice tiny red spots on the skin.

Try medicated shampoo that’s made to treat psoriasis. If that doesn’t work, a dermatologist can prescribe another treatment or medication. Severe cases may require injectable steroids.

6. Ringworm

Ringworm is an infection that causes itching, rashes, and hair loss. You might also see red patches on the scalp and skin. Surprisingly, ringworm is not caused by a worm but a fungus. People can get it from touching soil or infected items, animals, or people.

If you suspect a ringworm infection, see a doctor right away. If the doctor diagnoses ringworm, he or she will prescribe powerful anti-fungal medication.

7. Scleroderma

A less common cause of itchy skin is scleroderma, a connective tissue disease. It causes an increase in collagen, a protein found in connective tissue. This causes hard patches of skin in different areas of the body. At the first stage of the disease, dry skin causes the skin to itch.

The treatment depends on the type and severity of scleroderma. It might include medicines that decrease immune system activity.

8. General Itching

Sometimes an itchy scalp doesn’t have a direct medical cause. There are a few simple ways to reduce scalp itching.

  • Wash your hair with warm water.
  • Clean your hair brushes and combs.
  • Avoid sharing combs and hair accessories.
  • Choose gentle, itch-free shampoos and hair products.

Also, encourage your child to avoid scratching his or her scalp, which only exacerbates the problem. Scratching can sometimes cause scabs, which can become infected.

What If It Is Lice?

Of course, lice are still one of the possible causes for an itchy scalp. Lice are tiny insects that feed on human blood, and they often live on human scalps. The lice release saliva, which irritates the scalp and causes itching. Lice can travel between heads by head-to-head contact or occasionally by sharing hats, brushes, or hair pieces.

Look closely at your child’s scalp to see if you can spot the adult lice. You may also see tiny eggs attached to your child’s hair. These eggs look like dandruff but aren’t as easy to remove.

You can remove lice with lice combs, shampoo, and other solutions. But professional solutions are a better bet to completely eliminating lice.

If you suspect lice, visit Heartland Healthy Heads. Our trained and certified employees know exactly what to look for to spot lice. We also provide thorough treatment options that will completely remove any trace of lice from your child’s hair.

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