Head Lice are a common problem in all elementary schools and unfortunately Todd is no exception. The primary mode of transmission is head-to-head contact; however it is possible for head lice to be spread through contact with inanimate objects. The head louse is a 6-legged, wingless parasite that has plagued humanity since the beginning of recorded time. Its life cycle is 30 days and the female louse will lay 5-10 eggs or nits per day. Nits will hatch within 7-10 days. The most common symptom of head lice infestation is itching, however many children do not experience any itching at all. The presence of nits is the best way to detect lice. Nits are small whitish ovals, smaller than a sesame seed that are cemented to the hair shaft. Unlike dandruff, they cannot be brushed away.
There are three important steps in treating head lice:
- Kill the lice- There are various products on the market including pediculocides and natural or organic. The organic products smell nice and are gentle. At the same time, they break down the lice exoskeleton and nitshells so that there is little chance of survival if properly applied and reapplied during your treatment cycle. Use products as directed.
- Remove all nits —This is the single most important step in preventing re-infestation. It is best done by hand or with a special fine toothed metal comb. Many pediculocides claim to kill nits, however no product is 100% ovicidal. Even one viable nit left in the head can cause a re-infestation.
- Clean the household -Thoroughly vacuum and clean the home, paying special attention to bed linens, pillows, upholstery and carpeting. Wash items in hot water and dry in a hot dryer. Dry cleaning is also effective. Items that aren't washable can be sealed in a plastic bag for a period of two weeks. Combs and brushes should be boiled. Household insecticide sprays should not be used, since they may be harmful and are not effective.
Parents should check their children on a regular basis to prevent the spread of lice.
Children should be instructed not to share hats, combs, brushes and hair ornaments. Head-to-head contact should be avoided. It is a good idea to send in a bag for your child to store jackets, hats, and other personal belongings. There are several myths regarding head lice that contribute to a lot of unnecessary anxiety. Head lice do not jump or fly.
They do not spread disease. They do not live on animals, nor can animals spread them. They do not spread to other parts of the body.
Unfortunately, there is still a stigma associated with the condition. There is no need for embarrassment. Head lice are more commonly found on clean, healthy heads. They do not like dirty hair. Head lice are transmitted from person to person and hygiene is not a factor.
Although the diagnosis of head lice is very distressful, it is important to keep it in perspective. Lice are very tenacious and adaptable creatures and even the most thorough prevention techniques do not always work.
- Wash everything that your child has come in contact with in hot water, and dry in the dryer for 20 minutes. This includes clothes, washable soft toys, blankets, quilts, sheets, pillows and pillowcases. Any clothing items that cannot be washed should be dry cleaned or stored in a plastic bag for no less than 2 weeks.
- Vacuum all carpets, furniture, mattresses, drapes, car seats etc., that the child may have come in contact with. Remember lice can live 48 hours without a human host.
- Clean all brushes, combs or other hair items by boiling or soaking in hot water and a disinfectant. It is best for each family member to have his/her own comb and brush. Make a family policy not to share hats, scarves, hair items not only with each other, but with others outside the home.
- Check your child's head frequently after treatment. Live lice may live up to 24 hours after treatment and may need to be removed manually. Frequent head checks and removal of all nits is the only way to guarantee elimination of this pest.
- Lice do not die in the shower or at the pool. They have a breathing tube which they can close in adverse circumstances and will survive for some time without air.
- Lice are not killed by the blow dryer. If your child is not burned by the dryer, it is not hot enough to kill head lice. Heat is not the solution.
- Be compassionate. No one chooses to be infested with lice. It is an age -old problem that needs to be addressed by the community at large. Working together and sharing ideas and solutions that may have worked for you will go so much farther than blame and ridicule.
- Take a lesson from the children. They are very matter-of-fact about lice. It's no big deal to them. And in reality, although an annoyance, lice are not dangerous and do not spread disease. We should not make them more important than they are.
More information and resources:
American Academy of Pediatrics: Head Lice: What Parents Need to Know
Lice and nit removal (optional):
The Lice Lady of Westchester (Anna Krosche) - (914) 497-5465
Licenders (Debra Rosen) - (888)LICE ENDERS
Lice Doctors - (914) 730-6821
The Lice Chicks, Inc - (914) 953-6448
LiceOut911 - (914) 689-3655 - www.liceout911.com