Headlice.org is a great resource for any questions pertaining to head lice. Please remind your child to not share personal items. Also remember to check your child's head frequently. If nits or lice are descovered please call the health office so that we may put into effect our lice procedure. We are a nit free district.
- Look for small silvery nits fixed to the hair shaft, similar in appearance to dandruff, but not easily removed.
- Where nits have hatched, live lice may be seen.
- Follow the directions for any medication carefully. Cream rinse and conditioners can decrease the effectiveness of the treatment.
Frequently asked questions? Reference Source: http://www.cdc.gov
Question: What are head lice?
Also called Pediculus humanus capitis (peh-DICK-you-lus HUE-man-us CAP-ih-TUS), head lice are parasitic insects found on the heads of people. Having head lice is very common. However, there are no reliable data on how many people get head lice in the United States each year.
Question: Who is at risk for getting head lice?
Anyone who comes in close contact with someone who already has head lice, contaminated clothing, and other belongings. Preschool and elementary-age children, 3-10, and their families
are infested most often. Girls get head lice more often than boys, women more than men. In the United States, African-Americans rarely get head lice.
Question: What do head lice look like?
There are three forms of lice: the nit, the nymph, and the adult.
Nit: Nits are head lice eggs. They are hard to see and are often confused for dandruff or hair spray droplets. Nits are found firmly attached to the hair shaft. They are oval and usually yellow to white. Nits take about 1 week to hatch.
Nymph: The nit hatches into a baby louse called a nymph. It looks like an adult head louse, but is smaller. Nymphs mature into adults about 7 days after hatching. To live, the nymph must feed on blood.
Adult: The adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed, has six legs, and is tan to greyish-white. In persons with dark hair, the adult louse will look darker. Females lay nits; they are usually larger than males. Adult lice can live up to 30 days on a person's head. To live, adult lice need to feed on blood. If the louse falls off a person, it dies within 2 days.
Question: Where are head lice most commonly found?
On the scalp behind the ears and near the neckline at the back of the neck. Head lice hold on to hair with hook-like claws found at the end of each of their six legs. Head lice are rarely found on the body, eyelashes, or eyebrows.
Question: What are the signs and symptoms of head lice infestation?
Tickling feeling of something moving in the hair. Itching, caused by the an allergic reaction to the bites. Irritability. Sores on the head caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected.
Question: How did my child get head lice?
By contact with an already infested person. Contact is common during play at school and at home (slumber parties, sports activities, at camp, on a playground).
- By wearing infested clothing, such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, or hair ribbons.
- By using infested combs, brushes, or towels.
- By lying on a bed, couch, pillow, carpet, or stuffed animal that has recently been in contact with an infested person.
Question: How is head lice infestation diagnosed?
If crawling lice are not seen, finding nits attached firmly within 1/4 inch of the base of the hair shafts suggests, but does not confirm, the person is finfested. Nits frequently are seen on hair behind the ears, and near the back of the neck. Nits that are attached more than 1/4 inch from the base of the hair shaft are almost always non-visable (hatched or dead). Head lice and nits can be visible with the naked eye, although use of a magnifying lens may be necessary to find crawling lice or to identify a developin nymph inside a viable nit. Nits are often confused with other particles found in hair such as dandruff, hair spray droplets, and dir partcles.
If no nymphs or adults are seen, and the only nits found are more than ¼ inch from the scalp, then the infestation is probably old and no longer active -- and does not need to be treated.
Question: I have heard that head lice medications do not work, or that head lice are resistant to medication. Is this true?
A recent study done by Harvard University did show that SOME, but NOT ALL (or even most) head lice are resistant to common prescription and over-the-counter medications (OTC). There is no information on how widespread resistance may be in the United States. Resistance (medication not working) is more likely in people who have been treated many times for head lice. There are many reasons why medications may seem not to work. Below are some of those reasons:
- Misdiagnosis of a head lice infestation. A person has head lice if they have crawling bugs on their head or many lice eggs (also called nits) within a quarter inch (approximately the width of your pinky finger) of the scalp. Nits found on the hair shaft further than 1/4 inch from the scalp have already hatched out. Treatment is not recommended for people who only have nits further than one-quarter inch away from the scalp.
- Not following treatment instructions fully. See instructions below for how to treat a head lice infestation. Using medication alone is not likely to cure a head lice infestation.
- Medication not working at all (resistance). If head lice medication does not kill any crawling bugs, then resistance is likely. If the medication kills some of the bugs, then resistance to medication is probably not the reason for treatment failure (see item #2 and #4).
- Medication kills crawling bugs, but is not able to penetrate the nits. It is very difficult for head lice medication to penetrate the nit shell. Medication may effectively kill crawling bugs, but may not treat the nits. This is why follow-up treatment is recommended. See instructions below for a detailed summary.
- New infection. You can get infested more than once with head lice. Teach family members how to prevent re-infection.
Question: How can I treat a head lice infestation?
By treating the infested person, any other infested family members, and by cleaning clothing and bedding.
Step 1: Treat the infested person/any infested family members
Requires using an OTC or prescription medication. Follow these treatment steps:
- Before applying treatment, remove all clothing from the waist up.
- Apply lice medicine, also called pediculicide (peh-DICK-you-luh-side), according to label instructions. If your child has extra long hair, you may need to use a second bottle.
WARNING: Do not use a creme rinse or combination shampoo/conditioner before using lice medicine. Do not re-wash hair for 1-2 days after treatment.
- Have the infested person put on clean clothing after treatment.
- If some live lice are still found 8-12 hours after treatment, but are moving more slowly than before, do not retreat. Comb dead and remaining live lice out of the hair. The medicine sometimes takes longer to kill the lice.
- If no dead lice are found 8-12 hours after treatment and lice seem as active as before, the medicine may not be working. See your health care provider for a different medication and follow their treatment instructions.
- A nit comb should be used to remove nits and lice from the hair shaft. Many flea combs made for cats and dogs are also effective. Finer-toothed nit combs, available through Wal-Med* and the National Pediculosis Association*, may also be helpful.
- After treatment, check hair every 2-3 days and use a nit comb to remove any nits or lice you see.
- Retreat in 7-10 days.
- Check all treated persons for 2-3 weeks after you think that all lice and nits are gone.
Step 2: Treat the household
- To kill lice and nits, machine wash all washable clothing and bed linens that the infested person touched during the 2 days before treatment. Use the hot water cycle (130o F) to wash clothes. Dry laundry using the hot cycle for at least 20 minutes
- Dry clean clothing that is not washable, (coats, hats, scarves, etc.) OR
- Store all clothing, stuffed animals, comforters, etc., that cannot be washed or dry cleaned into a plastic bag and seal for 2 weeks.
- Soak combs and brushes for 1 hour in rubbing alcohol, Lysol*, or wash with soap and hot (130o F) water.
- Vacuum the floor and furniture. Do not use fumigant sprays; they can be toxic if inhaled.
Question: My child has head lice. I don't. Should I treat myself to prevent being infested?
No, although anyone living with an infested person can get head lice. Have another person check the back and sides of your head for lice and nits. Check family members for lice and nits every
2-3 days. Treat only if crawling lice or nits are found within a 1/4 inch of the scalp.