Head lice is not an unusual condition in children and has nothing to do with cleanliness. Anyone can get head lice. Head lice are very small, tan-colored insects (less than 1/8" long) which live on human heads. They lay their eggs (nits) close to the scalp. The nits are tiny (about the size of the eye of a needle) and gray or white in color.
CAUSE: Pediculus humanus capitis, a louse
SYMPTOMS: Itching of the scalp and neck. Look for: 1) crawling lice in the hair, usually a few in number; 2) eggs (nits) glued to the hair, often found behind the ears and at the back of the neck; 3) scratch marks on the head and back of the neck at the hairline.
SPREAD BY: Lice are spread by direct head-to-head contact and by sharing personal items such as combs, brushes, barretts, hats, scarves, jackets, blankets, sheets and pillowcases.
Lice do not jump or fly, they crawl. They cannot live off a human host for more than 48 hours. They only lay their eggs while on the head. Lice are not spread to or from pets.
INCUBATION: It takes 7-10 days from when the eggs are laid until they hatch.
CONTAGIOUS PERIOD: Until treated with lice-treatment product.
EXCLUSION: Until first treatment is completed and no live lice are seen.
HOW CAN HEAD LICE BE CONTROLLED?
Do not share combs, brushes, other hair-grooming items and other hair care items (barretts, etc.), towels, bedding, clothing, hats, and headgear (head phones and sports helmets)
Hang coats, jackets and caps on separate hooks or hangers.
Check your child's head frequently throughout the year. If one person in a household has head lice others should be checked too.
Use a lice treatment product. Follow the product directions carefully (especially the amount of product to use, length of time on the hair, and whether to use on dry or damp hair.) Directions will vary, depending on the product used.
Remove all the nits. The nits are glued to the hair shafts as they are laid and are difficult to remove. To remove them use a nit comb or your fingernails to slide the eggs off the hair shafts.
Treat only household members with head lice, and treat all at the same time.
Clean all combs, brushes and other hair grooming items with hot soapy water.
Vacuum carpets, upholstered furniture and seats in cars thoroughly. Insecticide sprays are not recommended because they expose household members to unnecessary pesticides.
Clothing that has been worn in the last three days, bedding and towels should be washed in hot water and dried in the dryer before using again. Clothing that cannot be washed or dried, linens and stuffed toys can be dry cleaned or sealed in plastic bags for two weeks.
WHEN CAN A CHILD RETURN TO SCHOOL?
Once a student has been identified as having head lice, he/she must be treated with a lice treatment product before returning to school.