How to Check for Lice on Yourself

How do you know if you have lice? Check yourself.

Thoroughly checking yourself for lice is not for the faint of heart. Since you can’t see the back of your head, it’s essential to use a lice comb–or even a flea comb. Keep in mind that you need to keep combing until you’ve gone over your head multiple times in different directions. You will have a few hurdles to overcome: persistent tangles, tricky angles, and tired arms. Here are some tips on performing a complete check while keeping yourself comfortable so you’ll have the stamina to keep going until the job is done!

Preparing to check

Set up in a well-lit area in front of a mirror. Consider listening to music or a podcast, because you need to be patient and thorough to do a proper head check. Completely detangle the hair until there are absolutely zero tangles, then coat the hair with oil (mineral oil, coconut oil or even olive oil will work). If your hair is curly enough to form ringlets, I suggest straightening it with a flatiron before you begin.

Give the oil a few minutes to soften the hair while you prepare your tools. Check and clear anything that’s stuck between the lice comb’s teeth to prevent false positives. Next, gather several paper towels which you will use to view anything removed by the comb.

Starting your lice check

To get started, grab your lice comb and focus on combing out the easiest-to-reach areas where lice tend to group: I suggest the temple first, then behind the ears, followed by the nape of the neck. To reach behind the ears more easily, lean your head to the side, making sure to always detangle again after changing the hair’s position. To get to the nape, try sitting with your hair flipped and hanging in front of you. Glide the comb along the scalp a couple of inches at a time, then pull all the way through to the ends. Keep the comb snug against your head, holding it at about a 45-degree angle from the scalp. You are trying to scoop lice off of the scalp and trap any nits (lice eggs) that may be within ¼” of the scalp within the teeth of the comb. Holding your paper towels like a baseball mitt, wipe your comb clean to see what you’ve removed. Detangle your hair again at the first sign of resistance from snarls. Comb in as many directions as you can, going over these high-traffic areas of the head multiple times until you’re sure nothing suspicious has come out.

Next, you’re going to check all the areas in between those hotspots. Lean over and brush all the hair to one side so that it’s hanging straight down. Starting at the ear pointing upward, comb straight across the dome to the other side and pull the comb through to the ends. Try not to slow down; momentum will help you get to the other side. This step requires patience, consistent momentum, and vigilant detangling. Continue this combing technique until you’ve run the comb over your whole scalp, checking the comb with the paper towel after every swipe. Once you’ve gone over the entire head while leaning to one side, flip to the other side and repeat until you’ve gone over the whole head again in the other direction.

If you’ve taken the time to follow these steps and found nothing on the paper towel that resembles head lice or nits, congratulations! You can be confident that you’re lice-free!

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