School is back in session, which means homework, extracurricular activities, and hopefully not the dreaded call stating your child's class has an outbreak of lice!
An estimated 6 to 12 million cases of head lice infestation occur each year in the United States in children 3 to 11 years of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lice are parasites that attach to human hair and feed on human blood. The most prevalent kind of lice is head lice. This species can live only on human hosts, so you cannot get them from your dog, cat, or any other kind of pet you may have. Head lice can settle anywhere on the scalp, but they are commonly found on hairs at the back of the neck and around the ears, where it is warmest.
Lice can spread through physical contact. They cannot fly or jump but can crawl from one head to another, which happens when people's strands of hair meet during close contact. Lice can also travel on objects that have touched the head. A person may get lice after sharing objects such as hats or towels.
How to Treat for Lice
A lice removal kit ("nit comb") may be used alone to remove and kill head lice.
If using a drug treatment:
After rinsing the product from the hair and scalp, use a fine-toothed comb or a lice removal kit ("nit comb") to remove the dead lice and nits.
Apply the drug treatment only to the scalp hair and scalp itself.
Before treating young children, talk with the child's healthcare provider for recommended treatments based on the child's age and weight.
Use the medication exactly as directed on the label and never more often than directed unless advised by your health care professional.
Use treatments on children only under the direct supervision of an adult.
How to Help Prevent Getting Head Lice
Teach children to avoid head-to-head contact during play and other activities at home, school, and elsewhere (sports activities, playgrounds, slumber parties, and camps).
Teach children not to share clothing and supplies, such as hats, scarves, helmets, sports uniforms, towels, combs, brushes, bandanas, hair ties, and headphones.
Disinfect combs and brushes used by a person with head lice by soaking them in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5–10 minutes.
Do not lie on beds, couches, pillows, carpets, or stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with a person with head lice.
Clean items that have been in contact with the head of a person with lice 48 hours before treatment. Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items using hot water (130°F) and a high heat drying cycle. Clothing and things that are not washable can be dry-cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag and stored for two weeks.
Vacuum the floor and furniture, mainly where the person with lice sat or lay. Head lice survive less than one or two days if they fall off the scalp and cannot feed.
After finishing treatment with lice medication, check everyone in your family for lice after one week. If you find live lice, contact your health care professional.
Nathan Murray, PA-C
Marlow Family Care