Head lice affects 12 million people each year, mostly children ages 3 -10 and their families. Head lice can be a problem for many elementary schools. As your child heads back to school, remember these tips and guidelines.
What are head lice?
Head lice are tiny parasitic insects generally found on the scalp behind the ears and near the neckline at the back of the neck.
Who gets head lice?
Preschool and elementary children are most commonly infected with head lice. Head lice infect girls more often than boys. African-Americans are rarely infected with head lice.
How do you get head lice?
Head lice are easily transmitted through head-to-head contact with an infected person. Sharing scarves, hats, coats, brushes or hair ribbons with someone who has head lice transmits the parasites. Lice can also be transmitted from pillows, beds, towels, carpet or stuffed animals recently handled by an infected person. Head lice is not caused by poor hygiene. It affects many people, regardless of socio-economic status.
What are the symptoms of head lice?
- Sores on head caused from scratching
- A tickling feeling of something moving on the head
After noticing these initial symptoms, closely examine the scalp and look for lice on the scalp and clothing. Also, look for eggs on the hair shaft.
How do I know what to look for?
- Nits are lice eggs. They are hard to see and often confused with dandruff or hair spray droplets. Nits are oval, yellow to white and firmly attached to the hair shaft. They take about a week to hatch.
- Nymphs are baby lice that hatch from nits. They look like adult head lice, but are smaller. Nymphs must feed on blood to survive. They mature to adult lice after about seven days.
- Adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed. They have six legs and are tan to grayish-white. However, in people with darker hair, adult lice look darker. Adult lice can live up to 30 days on a person’s head. They need blood to feed on. If a louse falls off a person’s head, it normally dies within two days.
How do I treat head lice?
- There are several types of over-the-counter lice shampoos. Follow instructions on the box. You may need to re-treat in a week because not all over-the-counter shampoos kill the eggs.
- Machine-wash all washable clothing, linens and towels that the infected individual has come in contact with since two days before treatment. Be sure to wash these items in hot water, and dry for at least 20 minutes.
- Dry clean clothing that is not washable (coats, scarves, hats) or store all clothing, stuffed animals or comforters that cannot be washed into sealed, plastic bags for two weeks.
- Soak all combs and brushes for one hour in rubbing alcohol or wash in soap and hot water.
- Vacuum floor and furniture.
Can I prevent head lice?
It is often very difficult to prevent head lice, especially for school children that may be surrounded by other kids with head lice. When possible, try to avoid contact with an infected person. Also, if your child has head lice, be sure to give him or her the necessary treatment, and do not send your child back to school until he or she has been treated. This will help prevent the spread of head lice to other children.
Is it necessary to see a doctor?
See your primary care physician if symptoms persist after treatment.
Healthy Living Article List