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Itchy Scalp in Children

By Lindsay Tadlock ; Updated August 14, 2017

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.

Causes

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.

Signs

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.

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Complications

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.

Treatment

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. 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.

Prevention

According to Kids Health, scientists believe eczema is inherited; therefore, you cannot prevent your child from getting eczema. 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.

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