FACT SHEET ON HEAD LICE
WHAT IS IT?
The head louse is a small parasitic insect that infests human hair, laying eggs on the hair shafts and feeding on the scalp. The female lays about 4 eggs a day on the hair shafts, close to the scalp and cementing them so it is very difficult to dislodge the eggs.
The eggs (nits) are very small, oval and whitish or grayish in color. They may be mistaken for dandruff, except they are difficult to remove. That is they will not wash, blow or fleck off the hair like dandruff. Nits hatch in about a week into immature lice called nymphs. The nymph stage lasts about a week before the nymph becomes an adult. During the one month cycle, a louse may lay up to 150 eggs. Eggs can be found in clothing, carpets, furniture and will hatch and seek a human host.
Signs of head lice include head scratching and intense itching along with the appearance of nits.
HOW IS IT SPREAD?
1. By direct contact with an infected person.
2. By infested articles of clothing, combs, brushes, etc.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
DON’T PANIC!! Infestation is easy to control if detected and treated before it spreads.
DON’ T KEEP IT A SECRET!! Inform the school nurse immediately to prevent an epidemic. Remember - ANYONE can get head lice. If you are aware that your child has been in contact with someone who has head lice, notify the school nurse even if you do not see signs of infestation.
If you discover nits or lice on your child, your doctor can recommend a medicated shampoo which, when used according to directions, will kill lice and nits.
After treatment, comb through hair with a fine toothed comb to remove nits (a nit comb is designed for this purpose). This may be difficult and time consuming, but it is important that all nits be removed before returning to school.
Other members of the family should be inspected and treated if necessary.
Carefully clean clothing, sheets, coats, scarves, hats, blankets as well as other personal items that can harbor lice in HOT water (130 degrees) and dry in dryer at high heat for at least 20 minutes. Articles that cannot be washed must be dry cleaned or placed in a sealed plastic bag for at least 14 days. This includes stuffed toys.
Vacuum carpets, furniture and mattresses thoroughly. Clean combs and brushes in hot water. (Animals do not carry human head lice, so there is no need to treat pets.)
Remember to vacuum upholstery and carpeting in your car. THROW AWAY VACCUM CLEANER BAG OR THROUGHLY CLEAN BAGLESS VACCUMS AFTER USE.
1. Frequent inspection of hair for nits, particularly if there is scalp irritation.
2. Shampoo frequently.
3. Impress upon your children the importance of not sharing combs, brushes, hats, sweaters, etc.
4. Avoid sleep overs when there are incidences of head lice.
*If your child is sent home with head lice they may not return to school until the appropriate treatment is given and the nits (eggs) are completely removed (nit-free). Nits must be removed at home and the child’s head inspected by the nurse before readmission to school. In repeated cases of infestation of head lice a doctor’s note may be required before a child my return to school.