Head lice: An itchy scalp is the most common symptom of head lice.
Signs and symptoms of head lice include:
- Itchy scalp.
- Scratching. Some people scratch so much that the scalp — and sometimes the back of the neck — become red and irritated.
- Crawling sensation. People often feel something crawling on the hair or scalp.
- Seeing bugs. These look like light-brown sesame seeds crawling on the hair, skin, or clothing.
- Finding lice eggs (nits). The eggs are yellow, brown, or tan and about the size of a pinhead. These seem glued to the hair. If the eggs have hatched, you will see clear shells.
- Swollen lymph nodes (many people call “glands”) in the neck.
- Pink eye. This is a common eye infection.
An itchy scalp is the most obvious symptom of head lice, but that alone does not mean you have head lice. Other more common things like dandruff and eczema also can make the scalp itch.
You also can have head lice and not itch. It sometimes takes a few weeks after the lice arrive for the scalp to start itching.
Learn more about head lice:
Frankowski BL, Bocchini JA. “Head Lice.” Pediatrics
. 2010; 126(2):392-403.