Any time children come together, particularly at the start of the school year or any social grouping like scouts and little league, head lice cases commonly increase. This is not a cause for panic, but a cause for action to be taken to prevent head lice.
Head lice are small insects that live in people’s hair and feed on their blood. Lice die quickly (usually within 2 days) without feeding so they cannot live very long away from the human head.
Please encourage your child not to share or trade personal items such as hats, combs, brushes, headbands, barrettes, scarves, helmets, or headphones with foam ear protectors. Direct, physical, head-to-head contact is the usual method of transmission. Lice do not jump, fly or swim. They are, however, good crawlers. Mature lice, which are no bigger than a sesame seed, avoid light and are hard to see. Lice eggs or nits are usually found close to the scalp, usually within a 1⁄4 inch. Nits appear as tiny whitish ovals that are “glued” to the hair shaft by a waterproof, cement-like substance. Nits cannot be washed or brushed out of the hair like ordinary dandruff can. Lice shampoos do not remove nits from the hair; nits must be combed out or manually removed.
Head lice do not transmit disease but they do cause intense itching of the scalp. Nits take 6-9 days to hatch and seven or more days for the lice to become egg-laying adults.
The only way you will know if your child has lice is to look through their hair.
If you find head lice on your child, please notify the School Nurse and keep your child home until properly treated and free of live lice.
Anyone can get head lice. If you child has head lice all family members hair must be checked. Common places to find lice are close to the scalp, the neckline, and behind the ears.
- There are several non-prescription treatments available at the drugstore. The Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recommends the use of NIX, a cream rinse treatment.
- Remove all nits by using a fine-tooth comb or by gently sliding the nit down the hair shaft using your thumb and index finger (this may take several days to be sure all nits are gone).
- Treat the home environment; wash all clothing (including hats, scarves, coats) bed linens and towels used within the past 48 hours in very hot water. Any items that cannot be washed should be dry cleaned. Cloth toys, stuffed animals and similar items should be placed in a sealed plastic bag for 10 days. Boil combs, brushes, barrettes for 5 minutes or soak them in rubbing alcohol or Lysol for one hour. Vacuum carpets, mattresses, pillows, and furniture thoroughly.
The treatment didn't work….
The reasons treatment may not have worked include:
- The directions on the treatment product were not followed closely enough.
- The nits were not completely removed.
- The child got head lice again from a family member or playmate.
If the NIX product did not work and you feel sure all family members and the child’s environment received proper treatment you should talk with your doctor about using a prescription treatment. There is no proof that treatments such as vinegar, mayonnaise, olive oil, or lotions that suffocate lice work.
CCPS policy requires that students must be excluded from school until properly treated. If a case of head lice is detected in a classroom, any siblings or children living in the same household will be screened. In order for students to be re-admitted to school the parent or guardian must complete the “Checklist for Head Lice Treatment” (given to them by the School Nurse). In addition, the student must be examined by the school health staff and found to be lice-free.
School nurses are an excellent resource and parents are encouraged to contact their child’s school nurse with any questions or for help if their has head lice.