How to Avoid A "Hair Raising Experience"

Head lice often occurs in school aged children. While inconvenient, head lice do not cause medical harm and can be effectively treated.

Some things to know about head lice:

  • Head lice are not a sign of uncleanliness! They love clean hair.
  • Lice do not hop, jump, or fly. They crawl quickly, and the only way they can get from one person to another is through direct head to head contact.
  • Lice are not passed on pets. They need human blood to survive.
  • Schools are not the most common place where head lice are spread. Sleepovers are thought to be the most common way lice are passed from home to home.
  • School-wide head checks are not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The most effective screening occurs when parents frequently check their own children at home! (If help is needed to identify what you are seeing, please contact your school nurse).

The lifecycle of head lice:

Once a pregnant female or a male and female louse take residence in a head of hair, the reproduction process begins. A female lays about 6-10 eggs per day. The eggs can hatch anywhere from 3-10 days later. Once the egg hatches, the louse enters the nymph stage and cannot reproduce. It takes another 7-21 days for the nymph to grow into a mature adult that can reproduce.

Children usually have had head lice for about six weeks prior to initial diagnosis. It takes that amount of time for the child to develop sensitivity to the saliva of the louse that results in characteristic itchiness.

What do head lice look like?

Live lice are tiny black/brown insects that are similar in size to a sesame seed. Nits, which are eggs of the lice, are whitish, grey and stick to the hair shaft. They are not easily removed, like dandruff.

Signs of head lice:

Frequent head scratching, particularly at the top of the head and nape of the neck, and skin irritation or red bite marks around the ears and the nape of the neck.

What parents can do:

Check your child’s head weekly all year long. Call the school nurse if you suspect your child has lice. Call your physician to see what product he/she recommends for treatment.

Follow treatment directions exactly according to manufacturer’s instructions. For all over the counter treatment products, retreatment must be carried out again in 7-10 days. Use a lice comb to detect and remove lice and nits daily until all nits are removed. To kill lice on bedding, clothes, etc., wash and dry them as you would ordinarily. NEVER add any pesticide. Vacuum materials that cannot be washed. If you are concerned about head lice on carpets or furniture, vacuum them thoroughly or wipe smooth surfaces with a damp cloth. Place items that cannot be washed or dried, such as stuffed animals, in a tightly sealed plastic trash bag for 10 days. To kill lice on brushes, combs, or hair accessories, wash them with hot, soapy water.

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