During any school year there can be outbreaks of head lice. Head lice do not discriminate- they love everyone! Higher risk groups include children ages 3-11, females, clean hair, those returning from vacation, summer camps, and sleep-overs.
What are head lice?
Head lice are tiny, wingless, greyish-tan insects that live and breed in human hair. The eggs, called nits, are usually found attached to the hair shafts close to the scalp behind the ears and on the back of the head (although they can be seen elsewhere). Nits cannot be washed away like dirt or dandruff; they must be removed with a special comb designed for this purpose. An adult louse is the size of a sesame seed. Finding a live adult louse on the scalp or in the hair is an indication of an active infestation. Lice cannot jump or fly. Lice can survive for about 48 hours away from the human scalp. Pets cannot host lice/ lice only feed on human blood. With that being said, pets can “transport” lice from one person to another if there is close contact.
How do they spread?
Lice primarily spread through direct head-to-head contact. They may be spread by sharing personal items, such as combs, brushes, scarves, hats, sleeping bags, pillows, and stuffed animals.
How are they detected?
The first clue will be that the child is frequently scratching their scalp. They may also complain of a tickling sensation on the head. You may notice some red bumps on the head or neck, or scabs on the head from the scratching. The child may be irritable and have difficulty sleeping, as lice are more active in the dark. You can carefully examine the hair, especially around the back of the neck and behind the ears. Lice tend to shy away from light, so you may only see their eggs (nits) that are attached to the hair shaft.
What do I do next?
DON’T PANIC! You will want to take quick action though. Treatment is going to take patience and time. There are many over the counter medicated products available designed to eliminate lice. Local pharmacists are very knowledgeable and will be ready to assist you with this. You may also want to consult with your healthcare provider to discuss the best treatment options for your family. You may have heard that there has been some reported resistance to some of the products available, but prevalence of resistance is not known. There is no scientific evidence that home remedies (such as mayonnaise, vinegar, olive oil, and dawn dish soap) are effective treatments. You will want to (carefully) comb for nits DAILEY for two weeks. It only takes one to hatch to start the process all over again. All household members and other close contacts should be checked. All persons with active head lice should be treated at the same time. Our goal is to have the child treated and back in school right away. Per the Department of Health and Human Services recommendation, routine exclusion of school-aged children with lice is no longer recommended. Mass screenings are also not recommended.
At the same time you treat the child’s head lice, you will want to clean your home and personal items. Here is a simple check-list for a lice free home:
- Vacuum furniture, rugs, car seats, and throw pillows.
- Soak combs, brushes, hair clips, and headbands in hot water (above 130 degrees) for 10 minutes.
- Wash personal items such as hats, clothes, towels, and bed linens in hot water (above 130 degrees). Dry the clothing in the dryer’s hot cycle for at least 20 minutes.
- Dry clean items that cannot be washed (such as blankets and stuffed animals), or seal them in a plastic bag for 2 weeks.
Head lice education and resources are essential to helping correct misinformation and misperceptions, and to assist with educating everyone on all available treatment options and techniques.
- Timberlane School District policy: JLCC (Communicable Diseases).
According to the Department of Health and Human Services recommendations, a student with a confirmed case of head lice may…… Read More
New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services
New Hampshire Department of Education
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services