It is not always easy to see head lice, even when the head is closely inspected. Unhatched eggs or nits (empty shells) alone are not enough to diagnose an active head lice infestation. This is because it can be difficult to distinguish between eggs and nits that are dead or alive. Nits can remain glued to the hair after successful treatment. To confirm an active head lice infestation, a louse must be found and the most reliable method to use is “detection combing”.
Detection combing can be carried out on dry or wet hair. However, wet combing is more accurate because lice remain motionless when wet and if hair is conditioned lice become immobilised. The following steps should be taken:
- Detangle hair first with an ordinary brush or comb.
- Once hair has been detangled, switch to the detection comb (with tooth spacing of less than 0.3mm).
- Start at the middle front of the scalp.
- Comb the hair from the roots to the very end of the hair.
- After each stroke, examine the teeth of the comb for living lice.
- Rinse the comb if you find any lice.
- Continue combing section by section until you have done the whole head of hair.
- Rinse out conditioner and repeat the combing procedure in the wet hair.
If head lice are found, parents are advised to check every family member.