Telling the Difference Between Lice and Dandruff

There can be a stigma around having head lice or dandruff, yet neither of these conditions are dangerous. Although both these conditions can be perceived as a nuisance, there are over-the-counter treatments that can help you manage both.

Little ones may also have trouble sleeping when they have lice since head lice are most active at night. The scalp may also appear red and bleed due to frequent scratching.

Dandruff can also be treated at home with over-the-counter shampoo. Start by shampooing twice per week with an anti-dandruff shampoo. Keeping the dandruff shampoos in contact with your hair for five to 10 minutes is most effective.

cradle cap before and after

Nits or Dandruff: How to tell the difference

Understanding Cradle Cap: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Lice and dandruff are two things that have been confused with each other for a long time. However, they are very different. They have different causes, risk factors, appearance, location and treatment.

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How Do You Get Rid of Dandruff?

Don’t pick or pull up cradle cap scales. This can put your baby at a higher risk of infection.

Although nits and dandruff are common conditions to affect the scalp, the causes of each condition are completely different, and neither are caused by a lack of personal hygiene. 2

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Telling the Difference Between Lice and Dandruff

Treating Cradle Cap

Dandruff affects the entire scalp and is unique (vs. lice) in that small white flakes are easily demonstrated on the shoulders after rubbing the scalp. The scalp of an infant with a cradle cap will characteristically demonstrate the area to have a yellow greasy character that may be loosened and removed by scraping with a fingernail.

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What is the prognosis for a lice infestation and for dandruff?

If you don’t wash your hair often, you may try to wash it more frequently, up to once a day.

Dandruff, also called seborrheic dermatitis, is not an infection and is not contagious. Rather it is a scalp abnormality that causes dry, scaly flakes to be shed in excess. Another manifestation of seborrheic dermatitis that may affect infants more frequently is commonly called cradle cap. This scalp change appears as scaly scalp areas that have a greasy character rather than the dryness of classical dandruff (which is not usually seen in infants or toddlers).

Learn what medical treatments can help ease your dandruff symptoms and reduce those pesky flakes for good.

Head Lice vs. Dandruff

Cradle Cap: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Higher-risk occupations include teachers, daycare workers, and babysitters.

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Is Dandruff (Seborrhea) Contagious?

It usually develops when a baby is 1 to 3 months old. About 70% of 3-month-old babies have cradle cap. Most of the time, it goes away within 1 year. But some babies develop it around 1 or 2 years old

Once the cradle cap is under control, you can keep it at bay by washing your baby’s hair often with baby shampoo and brushing their scalp with a soft brush. Ask your pediatrician how often to wash your baby’s hair after the cradle cap goes away.

Cradle Cap

Cradle cap

If you need help examining the scalp for head lice or dandruff, you could visit your local pharmacy for more advice.

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Dandruff—also known as seborrheic dermatitis or, in babies, cradle cap— is a common, chronic skin condition that causes small pieces of dry skin to flake off of the scalp. It is not contagious.

Use caution with dandruff shampoos that contain tar because they can cause your scalp to become more sensitive to the sun. The tar can also discolor blonde or white hair after treatment.

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