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Best Bet for Spotting Lice? A Wet Comb

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Using a wet comb to search through a child’s hair may be the best way to determine if they have an active case of head lice.

A new report from German researchers found that this method identified active infestations 91 percent of the time, while visual inspection of a child’s hair only spotted 29 percent of the active infections.

Researchers at the City Health Department in Braunschweig, Germany, studied 304 children from five different schools where head lice was an ongoing problem. Each child first underwent a visual inspection with the inspector using an applicator stick to part the hair. Then a different investigator combed through the child’s hair with a lice comb after first dampening the hair with a conditioner. The investigator performing the second examination was not told whether the first had identified signs of lice. Visual examinations detected 86 percent of the cases of children with eggs or nits only. Conversely, wet combing was much more likely to identify the presence of live lice than a visual examination.

Based on the findings, the researchers conclude while visual inspection is the best way to identify the prevalence of past infections in a group of children, wet combing is much more accurate for identifying active infestations.

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