Head Lice is a parasite found on the heads of people. Spread through close contact with someone who has head lice, or by sharing personal items with someone who has head lice. It causes itching of the scalp. It can appear in different forms: Nits, which are lice eggs firmly attached to the hair, are oval in shape and white. Lice are tan to grayish white, wingless, insects, about the size of a sesame seed. They do not fly or jump. The child must receive treatment with medicated shampoo especially designed to kill lice, before returning to school. The household should also be treated: vacuumed, linens washed in hot water and stuffed animals put in plastic bags for one week. Other households members should be treated.
Myth vs. Fact
MYTH: Head lice is due to poor personal hygiene.
FACT : Head lice is not connected to poor personal hygiene. In fact, head lice prefer clean scalps to dirty ones. If your child gets head lice, it has nothing to do with how clean you keep your home or how well you care for your child. However, if your child gets head lice, it is important that you meticulously clean your environment to avoid reinfestation.
MYTH : Head lice spread by hopping, jumping, or flying.
FACT : Head lice cannot hop, jump, or fly. They can crawl at a rate of 12 inches per minute. They are spread by direct contact with an infected person or by sharing personal items such as baseball batting helmets, brushes, hats, combs, headphones, mattresses, pillows, or upholstered furniture.
MYTH : Only children can get head lice.
FACT : Anyone can get head lice. While it is true that head lice infestation is more common in children between the ages of five and twelve, parents must also take precautions. While checking for head lice in their children, they should not run their fingers through their own hair.
Basic Facts About Head Lice
- Tiny, wingless, insects that live exclusively in the human scalp and feed on human blood.
- Eggs of the louse are called "nits", which look like tiny whitish spots "glued" firmly to the hair shaft. Female adult head lice lay 100-400 nits during their 30-days as an adult. The nits hatch in 7-10 days. Click here to see photos of nits.
- Nits hatch into "nymphs" which are young head lice. Once the nymphs reach adulthood (in 9-12 days), the life cycle starts all over again, with female head lice laying more eggs.
How to Prevent Head Lice
- Teach your child not to share personal items - combs, brushes, pillows, sleeping bags, sports headgear.
- During "sleepovers", don't let the children share pillows, or sleeping bags.
- Check your children for head lice or nits on a regular basis.
The Four-Step Process to Eliminate Head Lice
- Inspect your child for head lice and nits.
- If you find head lice, apply a head lice-killing treatment.
- Remove head lice and nits.
- Eliminate all possible sources of re-infestation from home environment.
How to Know if Your Child has Head Lice
- Itching of the head is the most common symptom.
- Look for red marks on scalp or neck.
- Closely inspect child's scalp. Head lice are tiny and run from lights so are harder to see, but nits are tiny whitish spots.
- Nits can be mistaken for dandruff but unlike dandruff, they cannot be brushed off or removed by washing. They are "glued" firmly to the hair shaft.
What to Do if Your Child has Head Lice
- Treat immediately with Rid or other lice-killing shampoo. Follow direction as directed. Some brands are applied to wet hair, brands differ. Please read and follow instructions that come with shampoo. All nits must then be removed. A fine-tooth comb is provided in the Rid box and is helpful. Directions on a technique is included on the box.
- Immediately report your child's head lice to the school nurse. She will need to look for head lice in other children at school to minimize spreading.
- Check the other members of your family and treat if necessary.
- Vacuum all rooms and furniture.
- All washable items that have come contact with the affected person should be washed in hot water and dried in the dryer turned to the highest heat for at least 20 minutes.
- Items, like stuffed animals and sofa covers, that can't be washed, should be dry cleaned or sealed in a plastic airtight bag for at least 14 days.
- Combs and hairbrushes should be soaked in hot water for at least 10 minutes and then strands of hair and other debris should be removed with an old toothbrush.
Emotional Support for Parents
- Give yourself a break- you are not the first parent to experience head lice infestation. Talk with friends who have been through this-they can be a great source of strength and support.
- Recognize denial could make problem worse.
Emotional Support for Children
- Handle your lice-infested children sensitively.
- Reassure them it is not their fault.
- Give your child the facts about head lice.
- Show your child you care about his or her feelings.
- Assure them that the problem can be resolved.
- Convey a positive, upbeat attitude.