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An itchy scalp on your child is not life-threatening but may make your child irritable until the problem is resolved. There are a number of reasons your child may have an itchy scalp. Two of the most common causes of an itchy scalp in children include eczema and head lice.
Eczema refers to a number of skin conditions in which the skin is irritated, red and itchy. According to KidsHealth, about 1 out of every 10 children develop eczema. Other causes of an itchy scalp include head lice or ringworm. Head lice may cause your child's scalp to become inflamed and itchy. It may take weeks for a child with lice to start scratching, depending on how sensitive your child's skin is to the lice. Lice are highly contagious and spread easily from person to person, especially in schools where children are so close to each other. Ringworm is a fungal infection most often seen on the scalp. It looks like a red ring or group of rings with clear centers. This infection causes your child's scalp to itch.
- Eczema refers to a number of skin conditions in which the skin is irritated, red and itchy.
- It may take weeks for a child with lice to start scratching, depending on how sensitive your child's skin is to the lice.
Scalp Rash With Red Raised Skin on Babies
Signs your child may have eczema usually appear before your child is 3 months old and almost always before your child turns five. Symptoms include dry, itchy, red skin and small bumps on the cheeks, forehead or scalp. The rash may spread to other parts of the body. Signs of and itchy scalp due to lice can be seen by examining your child's head. Lice eggs look like tiny yellow, brown or tan dots before they hatch. Adult lice are grayish-white or tan and are no bigger than a sesame seed. Ringworm may start as a round, reddish, pimple-like sore and then becomes flaky, scaly or crusty, causing an itchy scalp. It can also cause swelling, redness and broken hairs.
- Signs your child may have eczema usually appear before your child is 3 months old and almost always before your child turns five.
- Adult lice are grayish-white or tan and are no bigger than a sesame seed.
An itchy scalp is not life threatening, and the underlying cause is easily treated. Complications may come from excess scratching of the skin, which may lead to a bacterial infection. It is important for your child to avoid scratching the skin and to cover up any open blisters your child may have.
Bald Patches in Children
A topical corticosteroid is commonly used to treat eczema. According to KidsHealth, more than half of kids with eczema will be over it by the time they are teenagers 4. Lice treatment includes a medicated shampoo or lotion to kill the lice. You should not use medicated shampoo for children under two years of age. You will need to remove the nits and lice by hand. You will also need to wash all bed linens and clothes, vacuum carpets and furniture and soak hair-care items in alcohol. Treatment for ringworm of the scalp includes a prescription oral medication.
- A topical corticosteroid is commonly used to treat eczema.
- You will need to remove the nits and lice by hand.
According to Kids Health, scientists believe eczema is inherited; therefore, you cannot prevent your child from getting eczema 14. Prevention for most infections causing an itchy scalp in your child include avoiding head-to-head contact at school or while playing with other children, sharing hair accessories and brushes and close contact with anyone who has lice or ringworm.
Scalp Rash With Red Raised Skin on Babies
Bald Patches in Children
Small Red Bumps on the Leg of a Child
Scalp Rash in Toddlers
Scalp Pimple Problems for Kids
Ringworm in Babies
Itchiness Behind the Ears
How to Treat Severely Dry Scalp in Toddlers
My Three-Year-Old Has Itchy Skin
What Causes Itchy Skin in Children?
- Kids Health: Head Lice
- Mayo Clinic: Head lice
- Kids Health: Infections: Tinea (Ringworm, Jock Itch, Athlete's Foot)
- Kids Health: Eczema
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Head lice: Overview. 2008 Mar 5 [Updated 2018 Dec 13].Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279329/
- Rassami W, Soonwera M. Epidemiology of pediculosis capitis among schoolchildren in the eastern area of Bangkok, Thailand. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2012;2(11):901–904. doi:10.1016/S2221-1691(12)60250-0
- van der Wouden JC, Klootwijk T, Le Cleach L, et al. Interventions for treating head lice. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;2018(5):CD009321. Published 2018 May 22. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009321.pub2
- Bin Saif GA, Ericson ME, Yosipovitch G. The itchy scalp--scratching for an explanation. Exp Dermatol. 2011;20(12):959–968. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0625.2011.01389.x
- Head lice infestations: A clinical update. Paediatr Child Health. 2004;9(9):647–657. doi:10.1093/pch/9.9.647
- Izri A, Chosidow O. Efficacy of machine laundering to eradicate head lice: recommendations to decontaminate washable clothes, linens, and fomites. Clin Infect Dis. 2006;42(2):e9–e10. doi:10.1086/499105
- Değerli S, Malatyalı E, Mumcuoğlu KY. Head lice prevalence and associated factors in two boarding schools in Sivas. Turkiye Parazitol Derg. 2013;37(1):32–35. doi:10.5152/tpd.2013.08
- Greive KA, Barnes TM. In vitro comparison of four treatments which discourage infestation by head lice. Parasitol Res. 2012;110(5):1695–1699. doi:10.1007/s00436-011-2687-7
- Devore CD, Schutze GE. Head lice. Pediatrics. 2015;135(5):e1355-65.
- Devore CD, Schutze GE; Council on School Health and Committee on Infectious Diseases, American Academy of Pediatrics. Head lice. Pediatrics. 2015 May;135(5):e1355-65. doi:10.1542/peds.2015-0746
Lindsay Tadlock began writing in 2010. She has worked as a personal trainer for over three years and shares her fitness and nutrition knowledge in her writings. She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2000 with her Bachelor of Arts in finance and worked for seven years as a commercial lender.