In order to stay ahead of lice outbreaks this year, we are sharing some general but important information.
Head lice are tiny insects that live in human hair. They hatch from small eggs called nits, which are attached to the base of individual hairs. The eggs hatch in about ten days with the new lice reaching maturity in about 2 weeks. The female louse can live for 30 days and can lay up to six eggs per day. Since lice multiply fast, they should be treated promptly.
Head lice can happen to anyone. Head lice are not a sign of poor health habits or being dirty. Head lice are very common in elementary school children and are most often spread by direct head-to-head contact and less frequently by head lice that have crawled onto clothing or belongings.Parents have an important role in preventing the spread of lice in our school community.
Please check your children’s hair at least once a week.
If lice are found, notify the school nurse so that steps may be taken to prevent the further spread of lice in the classroom.If possible, cover public seats where you rest your head (such as on airplanes or in movie theaters).
Students with long hair should have it tied back in school.
Teach your children not to share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, or hair accessories.
Do not share combs, brushes, hair ornaments or towels.
Do not share batting helmets at baseball orsoftball.
If your child is going to a slumber party, pack his or her own pillow.
Provide a cinch-type plastic bag for hats, coats, gloves for school that may be hung on closet hooks to keep clothing isolated.
Please feel free to contact the nurse’s office with any questions. Working together will help minimize the cases of lice in our community.
QUESTIONS ABOUT HEAD LICE
What is the lifecycle of the Louse?
Lice are human parasites that cannot survive for more than 3 days without human blood. The female louse lays eggs [called nits] that attach to the individual hair shafts of the host by a thick glue-like substance produced by the louse. A female can lay 50 to 100 eggs during her 30 day life. Usually the eggs hatch in 7 to 10 days. The young lice mature in another 7 to 10 days and can then begin to lay eggs.
What are the symptoms of Head Lice?
The most common symptom of lice infestation is itching. If you notice your child repeatedly scratching the head or neck area, you should check for lice.
How do I check for Lice?
You will need to seat the child in good light and you may need a magnifying glass to inspect the hair and scalp. Live lice are wingless insects measuring about 1/8 inch long that move quickly on the scalp when the hair is separated. The nits, or louse eggs, are easier to see. Look for a smooth, oval shaped structure attached to the side of a hair shaft. Un-hatched nits are clear in color but appear grey or white in the light. If the infestation is recent, the eggs will generally be close to the scalp. Nits do not wash out or separate easily from the hair and need to be removed manually.
How did my child get Lice?
Head Lice are a human parasite; pets do not harbor head lice. Head lice cannot fly or jump from person to person; they can only crawl. They are usually passed from child to child through shared combs, hats or other personal items. Gathering students' personal clothing into a confined space can allow live lice to transfer from one garment to another.
Treatment for Head Lice
What do I do if I discover lice or nits on my child?
Don't panic or be embarrassed. Head lice affect over ten percent (10%) of elementary age children every year. They are not associated with lack of cleanliness and can be treated with some effort. Do notify your child's school nurse so that other children in your child's class can be screened for lice. Your school nurse can also provide you with more information about eradicating a lice infestation.
How do I get rid of Lice?
Check everyone in the house for lice and nits. Treat everyone who has signs of lice or nits. There are chemical lice products available at the pharmacy but you should check with your family health care provider before you use any chemical product on any member of your family.
The key to getting rid of lice is the removal of all lice and nits from the scalp. You need to work in a well lighted area, preferably not over rugs or carpeting. The “Licemeister” metal lice comb comes with a white plastic cape to place over the infested person's shoulders. This allows you to see any lice that fall from the hair as it is being combed.
If hair is long, separate one section and pin the rest out of the way. Regardless of length, the hair should be worked on a small section at a time until all lice and nits are removed. If the hair is thick or course and difficult to comb, applying a hair conditioner or a vegetable oil to the hair may facilitate combing. Some parents have used mayonnaise, but this is difficult to remove from the hair after the combing is complete.
A metal comb specifically designed to remove nits should be used to comb the hair. As lice and nits are removed from the hair, the debris should be placed in a pail or bowl with water that will be flushed in the toilet as debris accumulates.
When all nits and lice appear to be gone, wash the hair with your regular shampoo and dry it. Inspect the scalp closely for any lingering nits.
Boil the comb for 10 minutes before using it on other family members.
The affected child's clothes and bedding should be laundered with hot water (150 degrees). Personal items that cannot be laundered should be placed in an air-tight container or plastic bag and sealed for 10 days.
Furniture, carpets, mattresses and car seats should be carefully vacuumed and the vacuum bag should be changed frequently.
Preventing Reinfestation with Head Lice
The key to preventing reinvestation with head lice is careful daily screening of all family members for at least 4 weeks. Removing any stray nits as they are found will prevent the nits from hatching and starting a new cycle for lice. Continue to vacuum all non washable surfaces where the family lays their heads and change the bag often.
Preventing Head Lice
No one is immune to head lice. The best way to prevent head lice infestation is education for the entire family about lice.
- Make sure everyone has their own personal care items like brushes, combs, headbands hats and helmets.
- Make sure everyone understands the dangers of sharing personal care items with others, whether family, friend or school mate.
- Inspect the scalp of all family members before or after routine shampooing; early detection of lice or nits can prevent severe infestation.
- Limit sleepovers which place children's heads in close contact and provide opportunity for lice to move between hosts.
- Practice using a coat or sweater to cover the high backs of movie theater seats before leaning your head back.