Head Lice Identification and Treatment

Time and time again, on every child care discussion list I have ever been on, there would suddenly be that dreaded post titled. “Oh help me” or something along those lines. And sure enough, some mom was panicking because her child had lice, or a child in her daycare did, and they had no idea what to do. So, I have compiled this handy directory for you. It makes a great guide for day cares, or as a handout, or a reference guide for those of you with kids in school. Good luck!

Dear Parent or Guardian,

This letter is to inform you that head lice have been discovered in your child’s classroom/childcare. The parents of the infected children have been notified and the children are being treated. Treated cases are no longer infectious. Lice are easily spread, but if you will check your child’s head and all other household member, these parasites can be detected early and controlled. Head lice spread quickly, so I would like to make you aware of the following:

What are head lice?
Who can get head lice?
What are the symptoms of head lice?
When do the symptoms appear?
How are head lice spread?
What is the treatment for head lice?
How can the spread of head lice be controlled?
How can the spread of head lice be prevented?
When can kids with head lice return to school/daycare?

What are head lice?
Head lice are very small, less than 1/8 inch long, tan colored insects that live on the human head. They live and lay their eggs, called nits, close to the scalp. The nits are tiny and are gray, white or brown. The nits are firmly cemented to the hair shaft.

Who can get head lice?
Anyone can get head lice. They are not a sign of being dirty and do not reflect poorly upon parents. Head lice are a common problem any place where there are groups of children, such as child care settings and schools.

What are the symptoms of head lice?
Itching and scratching of the scalp and neck are usually the first sign that head lice are present. The areas most often affected are behind the ears and the back of the neck. If lice or nits are found on the head of one person in a household, the heads of all household members should be checked. look for crawling lice in the hair near the scalp and nits glued to the hair shafts. They are usually found within 1/2 inch of the scalp.

When do the symptoms appear?
It may take two to three weeks before the intense itching is noticed.

How are head lice spread
Head lice are passed from person to person by direct contact, on shared personal items (combs, brushes, hats, scarves, sports headgear, jackets and other clothing) or by contact with infested bedding, furniture, or carpeting. Head lice do not fly or jump. They crawl and can fall off the head. Lice do not usually live longer than 48 hours off the head. They only lay their eggs while on the head. It is unlikely that the nits will hatch into insects after they have fallen off the head. Lice do not spread to pets, and you cannot get them from pets.

What is the treatment for head lice?
Lice control products come in the form of shampoos, creme rinses and lotions. Some products are available over the counter from a drug store and some are only available by prescription. If you are on medical assistance, contact your physician for a prescription. Contact a physician before using any lice control product on an infant, or a woman who is pregnant or breast feeding. It is recommended that the hair first be washed with a shampoo that does not contain a conditioner or creme rinse. Baby shampoo and Prell are two good examples. The head should be rinsed as usual. Some products are to be used on a dry head, others on a head that is damp. Only those people with actual lice or nits should be treated, because use of these products will not prevent someone from getting head lice.

Follow the directions carefully. The directions are not the same for every product. The lice don’t always die immediately. It might take up to 24 hours. If live lice are seen two days after treatment, retreat with a different brand. It is recommended that all nits be removed as part of the treatment. A special fine toothed comb is usually included with the product, or can be purchased separately. However, many people feel that the most effective way to remove nits is with fingernails. There are also nit loosening products that you can use after the lice treatment shampoo. Be sure to clean your fingernails thoroughly with hot soapy water and scrape under them if you used them to remove nits. After the hair is dry, recheck the head for any nits left over and remove them. After treatment, check the head ever day for several days.

How can the spread of head lice be controlled?
Combs, brushes, and similar items should be soaked for at least 10 minutes in hot (30 degrees) soapy water or a lice control product solution, then scrubbed with an old toothbrush that you can throw out. Recently worn clothing, including hats, scarves, jackets, pajamas, etc., should be washed in hot water and dried in a hot drier for an least 20 minutes before being worn again.

Items which cannot be washed should be dry cleaned, or sealed in plastic bags for two weeks. Items such as sports headgear, headphones, stuffed animals and pillow should also be bagged and stored for 2 weeks. Clean floors and thoroughly vacuum carpets, furniture, mattresses and the seats of cars. The use of lice killing sprays is not recommended.

How can the spread of head lice be prevented?
Check children’s heads frequently throughout the year. Especially if they are in child care of school. Avoid sharing items for hair care, clothing, hats, sports headgear towels, and bedding. Avoid sharing lockers. If jackets are hung on hooks close together, tell your kids to stick their hats in the jacket sleeve, not on a shelf by the other kids hats.

When can kids with head lice return to school/daycare?
Students can return to school 24 hours after head lice treatment.

 

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