Head lice

Head Lice
A.K.A. Pediculosis

By Beth Maloney, RN

stuffed lice

Each year we spend a fair amount of time dealing with head lice. Please check your child regularly, at least weekly, for lice and their nits (eggs). If you find either crawling lice or nits on your child please let the school nurse know. If you are unsure what to look for, call me at school and/or refer to the information available below.

If you have a question about lice, stop by with your child and visit the health office. Be sure it's really necessary before you spend lots of money on products. All family members and close contacts should be checked if signs of lice are found on an individual family member.

Things you should know about lice.

1. What is it?
Head lice (Pediculosis) are tiny, wingless, grayish-brown insects about the size of a sesame seed or smaller. They have six front legs with which to crawl and grasp the hair shaft. They require warmth and a regular blood meal to live. The response to being bitten is intense itching.

lice

2. How do you get head lice?
Lice are spread through direct contact with a person who has lice. Head lice do not hop, jump, or fly. Poor personal hygiene does not cause head lice. Head lice do not live in the trees, the dirt, or the air and they do not live on pets or stuffed animals.

3. What are the symptoms of head lice?

The most common symptom is constant scratching, particularly around the ears, back of the neck and top of the head.

4. What are nits?
Nits are tiny, whitish-yellow, oval eggs that are firmly attached to one side of the hair shaft at an angle. Hint ‑ if you can blow or flick it off, or if it crumbles in your fingers, it is not a nit.

5. How do you treat head lice?
Kill all the live lice. You can use oil or mayonnaise or cream rinse to smother the crawling insects or you may choose to check with your health care provider or pharmacist to determine which chemical product is safe for your family. Follow all directions carefully.

Check for and remove ALL nits by combing and nitpicking with your fingers and using a fine tooth comb.Clean the person's belongings and environment. Bedding and clothing should be washed in HOT water and dried in a hot dryer.

6. Why is nitpicking by hand important?
Combing alone will not get rid of head lice. Lice lay eggs close to the scalp. Removing all the nits is a sure way to get head lice under control.

7. When is it safe to send a child back to school?
After being treated, children should have a head check by the nurse before they ride the school bus or return to the classroom.

To help prevent an outbreak, please inform your school or child care agency and other parents if you discover head lice.

For additional information, check out the The National Pediculosis Association at www.headlice.org.

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