tell the difference between dandruff and head lice

How to Tell the Difference between Head Lice and Dandruff

Believe it or not, lice are easy to confuse with dandruff. Dandruff is a very common problem, but so are lice. Each year, the CDC reports that 6 to 12 million people in the United States get head lice, most of them children. The key to dealing with head lice and preventing it from spreading is prompt treatment. So, how can you tell the difference between lice and dandruff?

Head Lice vs Dandruff

Dandruff, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, is a skin condition that causes the skin on the top of the head to shed too quickly. As a result, this skin produces an itchy scalp with flakes that might show up on the hair or clothes. Some types of dandruff are caused by yeast, and this can make the condition especially bothersome. As embarrassing as dandruff can be, it’s very common and usually not a cause for concern.

Lice, on the other hand, are parasites that live on the scalp and feed on human blood. The tiny lice bites can cause intense itching, which can lead to irritation or secondary infections. Head lice are contagious, meaning that they can be easily spread from one person to the next. However, they do not spread disease and are not a public health hazard.

Key Differences to Look For

Because itching is a common symptom with both dandruff and head lice, it’s understandable why people aren’t always sure what their child has going on. Here are a few key differences to keep an eye on:

  • Location. Lice lay eggs (nits) on the hair, and they are very, very sticky. Dandruff causes dry, flaky skin near the scalp that easily falls off.
  • Contagious. Dandruff is not contagious and only affects the individual person. Head lice are easily spread, so if your child goes to school, camp or daycare, it’s possible that they’ve been exposed to lice.
  • Itching. The type of itching is a bit different between lice and dandruff. Dandruff tends to itch most when the scalp is dry. Lice itch all of the time, and some people report crawling or tickling sensations.
  • Color. Dandruff has a white and flaky appearance. Lice are sesame seed shaped and either black, brown or white in color, depending on where they are in the life cycle. They are hard to spot, which is why it often takes a trained eye to properly identify them.

Get a Professional Head Lice Check to be Certain

Dandruff and head lice are both common conditions that can happen to anyone. Understanding the differences between them is important, because if it is lice, prompt treatment is necessary.

Because it can be hard to find lice or nits, you can take your child to a professional head lice expert such as My Hair Helpers. Not only can lice be confirmed during your visit, but also a treatment can be applied right away. With our Lifetime Protection and 30-day Guarantee, you have nothing to lose! Contact us today to schedule an appointment in our salon or in the comfort of your home.

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