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How to Distinguish Head Lice From Dandruff

Tiny things are hard to see…because they are tiny.

Without magnification two very different things could be difficult to distinguish. And it isn’t just tiny things. The same goes for big things that are far away. Think about looking out the window of an airplane or looking at the stars. It’s tough to tell the make and model of a car from 30,000 feet and the stars all look pretty similar to the naked eye.

Well, what about the difference between dandruff and lice. Specifically, it is distinguishing between lice eggs (nits) and dandruff.

Both nits and dandruff are small, usually close to the scalp, whitish in color, and associated with an itchy head. Add to these similarities poor lighting and anything other than 20-20 vision and we have a recipe for confusion.

Can You Tell The Difference Between Nits And Dandruff?

Difference between head lice and dandruff

You’ll have to look closely to tell the difference

Now, sometimes there may be obvious cases of lice where no one could misdiagnose the issue. Other times there may be obvious cases of dandruff where it is clear that there are no lice or nits. However, in between the extremes lies the grey area where confusion is common, even among medical professionals.

In addition, there is a funny thing about human beings. If something or an idea gets into your head, it can be nearly impossible to see anything else. So if a child complains about an itchy head and the parent has just heard something about lice, it is entirely possible that anything in that child’s hair will be identified as lice. It has to be lice…right? Well, no, but being primed to see one thing makes it difficult to see another.

This is where the confusion comes in. Lice eggs do not really look like dandruff, but the distinction is only obvious with ideal conditions (good light and sight) or maybe with magnification. Not to mention the fact that if you are checking your own child’s head your emotional attachment may sway your judgment in one way or the other.

So What is the Difference?

Dandruff. Dandruff is made up of little skin flakes. There can be many different causes for dandruff, but the most common is simply dry skin.

Everyone has seen dry skin. Even if you haven’t seen dry skin on your scalp you have certainly seen dry skin on your hands, arms or legs. You can see the flakey shape and that is what dandruff looks like. Dandruff is easily moved from the hair, it is not sticky or attached to the hair.

Nits, on the other hand, are small oval shaped eggs that are attached to the hair. Usually, the nits are located about a quarter inch from the scalp and are attached with a glue like substance. They won’t move around easily like flakes of dandruff.

For your reference, here are some pictures of lice and nits. For dandruff, do a quick Google image search and be ready for some extreme pictures!

And of course, if you are in doubt, get a second opinion from a friend or a medical professional. If you find someone who has dealt with lice before, they will be even better at distinguishing between the two.

What To Do If It Is Lice

If you find that you or your child has lice, don’t worry! There is a great solution for you and it is not difficult! Most of the traditional methods for getting rid of lice are a little iffy. Many of the chemical based shampoos to kill lice only kill the hatched lice and do not kill the nits at all. Not killing the nits means that they must be manually removed with a lice comb. And follow up checks with the lice comb should be performed for about 2 weeks to make sure that all of the nits were removed.

airalle treatments in clinic
However, the Lice Clinics of America have a device that kills lice and nits at the same time without the use of chemicals. Now, in an easy 90 minute treatment, you can take care of the problem and continue on with your life. Check our website for the location nearest you to schedule an appointment.

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