Head Lice Information
Questions concerning head lice (pediculosis) are asked every year of school nurses and with good reason. There are estimates that between six to twelve million children are treated annually for this common problem. Head lice is not a serous condition. It is also not an indicator of an individual’s personal hygiene or cleanliness at home. Anyone can pick up lice in any number of locations where people gather, a school being only one example of such a place.
It would be very helpful if parents could examine their children’s hair routinely for head lice. If children complain of an itchy scalp, please take the time to check for lice. What you would be looking for would be tiny grayish-white flecks that resemble dandruff. These particles (nits or eggs) are attached to the hair shaft and unlike dandruff will not be removed when touched. Head lice can most often be found at the nape of the neck and behind the ears.
Should you find that your child does have head lice there are several over-the-counter shampoo-in treatments. It is advisable to contact your pediatrician if you have any questions regarding which product to use. Shampoo treatments should not be used as a preventative measure on other family members who show no signs of infestation. These products do contain pesticides and should be used only as directed.
I would ask that you discuss with your children: not to wear other students’ hats, caps, headbands, barrettes, or scrunchies. Also please remind your children that combs and brushes should not be shared. Our town policy is that any student suspected of having head lice will be sent home for treatment. Likewise it would be greatly appreciated if parents would notify the nurse if they have treated their child for this problem so that we can control the spread of head lice in a classroom.
Please feel free to call me with any questions on this matter or any other health concerns. I thank you in advance for your cooperation.
GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT HEAD LICE……..
1. How do you get head lice?
Head lice is spread through close contact, or through shared personal items, such as hats, helmets, combs, pillows, chairs, bedding, and radio earphones.
2. Can head lice fly?
No. Head lice are very small wingless insects that can’t jump or fly, but they can crawl at a rate of 12 inches per minute.
3. Do head lice indicate that a person is dirty?
No. Anyone can get head lice. Contrary to popular myth, you don’t get head lice because of poor personal hygiene. In fact, head lice prefer clean hair.
4. Do head lice transmit dangerous diseases?
No. Head lice aren’t known to carry disease.
5. How can I tell if my child has head lice?
For most people, the most common symptom of head lice is intense itching. However, itching is not always present. You should also look for red marks on the scalp and neck, and check the head for lice and nits. A magnifying glass may helps to identify lice.
6. What do head lice look like?
Head lice are tiny and brown, and the largest are the size of a sesame seed. Head lice may be hard to locate because they avoid light.
7. Do pets carry human head lice?
No. Head lice (humanus pediculus capitas) is exclusively a human disease. However, a louse can be transmitted to a pet that, in turn, can transmit it back to the family. Head lice do not live off animals; they feed only on human blood.
8. How do head lice grow?
Female head lice lay approximately eight eggs a day. The eggs are called nits and usually hatch in seven to fourteen days.
9. What are nits and what do nits look like?
Nits are eggs of adult lice. Viable nits are tiny, whitish ovals. They are firmly glued to the hair shaft, most often near the scalp.
10. Are head lice limited to children?
No. Anyone and everyone can get head lice at any age, though it is most common for children between the ages of five and twelve.
11. Are nits the same as dandruff?
No. Nits might be mistaken for dandruff, but unlike dandruff, nits can’t be brushed off, or removed by normal shampooing and washing.
12. Where are head lice located?
Head lice often gather behind the ears and just above the hairline at the nape of the neck, but they can be found anywhere on the head. Generally, they are easier to find on the crown.
13. How could my child catch head lice?
Your child can become infested with head lice from anyone that is infested—whether it be through direct contact, such as sitting close in the back of a car, on a “nap mat” or at a sleep over, or through the sharing of personal items, such as hats, sports helmets, brushes, or headphones.
14. How can I prevent a head lice infestation?
The best way to prevent a head lice infestation is to make sure that your child is careful about sharing any personal items with his/her siblings, classmates, and friends – especially brushes, combs, hats, headbands and sports headgear. Other items that should not be shared include towels, pillows and scarves.