Head lice facts
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I am concerned about head lice at school, what should I know?
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MPS students must be free of head lice. It is important for parents to routinely check their children's hair for lice. Lice are small insects about the size of sesame seeds. Nits are tiny yellowish-white oval eggs attached to the hair. Nits don't come off easily like dandruff or lint.
Lice do not jump hop or fly. They are transmitted via head-to-head contact, and personal articles such as hats, combs, and pillows. Please remind your children not to share such things with others.
When head lice are identified at school, the health office notifies parents of affected students and provides information on treatment of the hair and the household. Students may not return to school until treatment has commenced and the student is free of symptoms.
Anyone can get head lice. Head lice do not cause illness and are NOT highly transferable in the school setting. These parasites infect over 10 million Americans per year.
Screening programs (head checks) have NOT been proven to have a significant effect on the incidence of head lice in the school population.
Children do NOT get lice from school. They get lice from other children whom they have “head to head" contact with (sharing hair brushes, barretts, hats, towels, bedding, sleep-overs, & headphones).
The school health office does not do classroom screenings. They are strongly discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses
Screening should be performed only when students demonstrate symptoms.
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: Lice are spread by direct head-to-head contact and by sharing personal items such as combs, brushes, barretts, hats, head phones, 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.
The most commonly prescribed treatments for head lice are pediculicide shampoos. These products contain insecticides and must be used with caution (do not overuse these products). See your pharmacist or doctor for more information and product recommendations. Daily combing and removal of nits (lice eggs) prevent a re-infection. Nit removal throughout a three-week period (the life cycle of the lice) should greatly help remove the lice completely.
• Step 1: Use a pediculicide Use an over-the-counter pediculocide shampoo or rinse to kill most of the lice.Read the labels carefully and discuss the product with your doctor or pharmacist. directions will vary depending on the product.
For resistant cases consult your medical provider for prescription medication.
• Step 2: Clean the environment vacuuming carpet and upholstered furniture as well as sweeping floors will help avoid re-infestation. Launder clothes, bedding and towels in hot water and use a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes. Soak combs and brushes at least 20 minutes in hot water. Anything that cannot be washed, such as stuffed toys should be put in a plastic bag and tied securely for 2 weeks.
• Step 3: Comb out the nits Comb the hair in sections using a metal nit comb. It may be necessary to pull nits out with a fingernail “one by one”. Carefully inspect the entire scalp.
Follow up: Check dry hair in bright light and remove all nits you may have missed. Nits are about the size of a sesame seed --grayish white to light brown, generally within ½" of scalp (and stuck to the hair shaft).
Sending Your Child Back to School?
When you have completed one treatment, recheck for live lice as some are resistant to the over the counter treatment (YOU MAY NEED TO DO A SECOND TREATMENT WITH A DIFFERENT PRODUCT), then do a thorough nit combing, nit check and have cleaned your environment, it should be safe to send your child back to school. As long as you continue to check for and remove any previously missed nits over the next three weeks your child should not infest anyone else.
More information is availbale on the following web sites:
American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on Head Lice-
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What can I do at home?