Head Lice Information Sheet
Lice are fairly common wherever groups of people get together, including the school setting. Many people have concerns about the spread of disease with head lice, but these insects do not spread disease. They do, however, live by biting the scalp and eating the blood that comes from that bite, which causes some itching, and sometimes sores if the scratching gets really bad. Those sores caused by the scratching can become infected, which causes a bigger health problem than the head lice themselves. Having head lice is not a matter of being dirty or having poor hygiene. Lice simply look for the opportunity to get to anyone’s head that they can crawl to. Lice cannot fly or jump…they crawl, and they prefer to stay on people’s heads where they get food.
That’s why early detection and treatment is very important, and why we require that children who have evidence of the head lice must stay home from school until that evidence is gone. Your child’s school nurse is a great resource for answering questions about head lice. Because it is a fairly common condition in public places where large numbers of people gather, school nurses have a lot of experience in dealing with head lice, and can help make the best decision about when students should be sent home when this condition is seen.
We can tell that people have head lice from either seeing the live insects in the hair (they are very fast…you have to look hard to see them) or by seeing their eggs attached to the hair. Those eggs are called “nits” and are very firmly attached to the hair shaft by a cement-like glue. You can tell nits from other things in the hair, like dandruff or other deposits on the hair such as hair casts or sprays, gel, etc. by the shape of them, and because they don’t move when the hair is moved…they are very tiny almond-shaped specks and they are stuck firmly to the hair. Those eggs hatch out into adult lice every 7-10 days, adult lice live for about 20-30 days, and each female insect can lay up to 50 new eggs during that time!
So you can see why early detection and prompt treatment are so very important. Call your school nurse if you have questions, she’ll be glad to help.
For two weeks:
Day 1___________________ – when you pick up your child at school, come in to visit, and I’ll show you where the lice/nits are. Some parents have never seen them, and I’ll be happy to show you how to look. It’s an important task for you to do on a regular basis.
1. Get a “Licemeister” or other long, metal lice comb (the plastic ones do not work as well) from Walmart or CVS or Walgreens – they cost about $10. If you can’t do that, ask me if you may borrow one from the school. We keep a couple on hand, and of course, they are cleaned thoroughly in between uses.
2. Wet your child’s hair, divide it into small sections with clippies or hairpins, and in the bathtub or outside, comb through each section of hair with the lice comb thoroughly. You’ll need to clean the comb at intervals, too, because the lice and nits will get caught in the comb. Dental floss, or strong thread will work to clean out the comb, and it comes with directions for cleaning after each use as well.
3. Gather up the bed linens from the beds and wash them in hot laundry water, and dry them on the hottest dryer cycle, or take them outside to hang dry in the sun. Take any stuffed animals, throw rugs or bed items that cannot be washed and put them in a plastic bag for the week.
4. Vacuum any carpets and cloth furniture, including the car seats.
5. Rest…you’ve done a lot today!
Day 2 – ________________________Repeat steps 2 and 4 above, and finish anything else that you didn’t get done on day one. Hang in there, it gets easier!
Days 3-7 ______________________Just do the combing and vacuuming each day. You can take the bagged items out of the bags now. Do the laundry again.
Days 8-14 ________________________Just do the combing each day, preferably in the morning before school.
Days 1 and 2 should have taken care of biggest concerns and your child needs to be back in school by day 3 at the latest. We want him or her to return as quickly as possible. BE SURE to stop by my office on the way in so I can check your child with you there…that good communication between us helps tremendously. I am here to give the best possible health care for your child and all the other children in school. You should always discuss all the treatment options with your health care provider and make the decision you think is best for your child, and again, you can reach me by phone or in person during school time.
Some things we encourage you NOT TO DO to get rid of the lice:
We DO NOT advocate using the pesticide shampoos on the market such as Rid, Nix, and all those others out there, even if they say “non-toxic” or “natural.” There is strong evidence that they are not as effective as they once might have been, and it is still putting pesticides (something that kills bugs) on your child’s head, close to their eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. And never put anything dangerous like kerosene or gasoline or bug spray or pet shampoos for insects on your child’s head.
Another thing we DO NOT encourage is the use of lice or other bug sprays for the house, car, furniture, etc. Houses and cars don’t get head lice…people do. Those sprays are costly and not very effective during most of the stages of growth of the insects… it’s a waste of your time and money, and does not produce the desired results!
Please call me if you have any questions; working together we can get your child back into class quickly and lice-free.