Occasionally, we encounter a problem at school with head lice. It is most likely to occur after we have had a break at school (i.e. winter, summer or spring break). Head lice are human parasites and require human blood to survive.
- They cannot infest any area other than the human head (dogs and cats do not carry lice).
- They can be spread whenever there is direct contact of the head or hair with an infested individual. Lice can also be spread through the sharing of personal articles like hats, towels, brushes, helmets, hair ties and so on. There is also a possibility that they can be spread via a pillow, headrest, or similar item.
- They do not jump or fly and generally cannot survive longer than 24-48 hours. Head lice have no preference for dirty hair. They can be found on the cleanest of individuals. There is no connection between head lice and socioeconomic level.
- Often parents are very concerned about where the lice came from and are quick to assign blame. This is counterproductive and often cruel. If you discover lice on your child, please notify your school nurse, who will deal with the matter as discreetly as possible. We will need to check the child's classmates.
When lice are discovered, the treatment consists of washing with a special shampoo, and then combing the nits out of the hair with a special comb. This is then repeated in 7-10 days. The only way to do away with lice infestation is through nit removal from the head and constant vigilance. After all nits are removed, you should check your child daily for 2 weeks for the presence of any new nits that might have been missed during the process and then weekly. Per school policy, students must be free of nits to return to school.
When your child gets head lice, it is more of a nuisance than a health hazard. Since the nit can travel onto upholstery and then onto another host, everyone living in the household needs to be thoroughly checked. Vacuuming is the safest and best way to remove lice or fallen hairs with attached nits from upholstered furniture, rugs, stuffed animals and cars. Bed linens and towels should be washed in hot water. Hairbrushes can be soaked in hot water above 115 degrees.
The best way to prevent outbreaks is to stop head lice before it gets started. ALL parents should be screening their children regularly.
Make a point of checking each of your children at least once every week for head lice. They are difficult to see. Close inspection will reveal small silvery eggs attached to the individual hair shafts at or near the base. You can find pictures on the Internet at www.headlice.org
of both the eggs (nits) and hatched lice. They are most likely to be identified at the nape of the neck and around the ears. Another telltale sign is reddened irritated skin from persistent scratching. Although systematic screenings are done in school when lice are discovered, a case can easily be overlooked, particularly if it is a minor one.
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