From the School Nurses

This is the time of year when we get questions regarding head lice and we thought that this information might be helpful to you.

Head lice transmission can occur at home, school or in the community. Communication and proper management are the key components in dealing with an infestation and minimizing transmission to other students.  These responsibilities are shared between home and school.   We are here as a resource and can provide accurate information and help sift through misinformation.

Pediculosis (head lice) is a prevalent problem in school-aged children.  Head lice are one of the most communicable conditions with an estimated 6 – 12 million infestations occurring every year.  Head lice are not dangerous, they do not transmit disease and are not a public health issue.  Head lice should not disrupt the educational process.

Helpful Information

  • Check your child’s head regularly as part of your routine hygiene – at least once a week.
  • Watch for signs of head lice such as frequent head scratching especially behind the ears and at the nape of the neck.
  • Remind your children not to share personal items such as hats, helmets, combs, hair accessories, pillows.
  • Hair styles that restrain hair, such as ponytails and braids, prevent spread.
  • Head lice are mostly spread by direct head-to head contact.

What to look for…

  • Find a comfortable area with good light.
  • Look carefully throughout the entire scalp.  Wearing magnifying / reading glasses helps.
  • Lice are wingless insects about the size of a sesame seed.  They are usually reddish brown in color.  They move quickly and shy away from light. (This makes them more difficult to see.)
  • The determination of head lice is more often made by seeing nits (eggs) than by finding crawling head lice.
  • Nits are tiny, oval-shaped, and are usually beige or grayish white in color.
  • Nits are attached to the hair shaft and do not wash or blow away.

If you find head lice…

  • Please call us for advice.
  • Contact your pediatrician for treatment recommendations.
  • Follow directions very carefully and read all the warning labels
  • Be aware that over-the-counter products do not kill 100% of the lice and nits.
  • Combing and manual removal of lice are essential components to successfully removing ALL nits and lice from the head.  This may take over several days to accomplish.
  • Check all other members of the household.  Only those with live lice or nits close to the scalp should be treated.
  • Do not reapply treatment more frequently than recommended.
  • Be aware that there are many websites that offer advice and products regarding head lice management.  Your child’s pediatrician and school nurse are the best resources for information regarding head lice management.
  • Contact us if you have any questions during the process
  • The school nurse must assess your child after treatment.  Guidance and further direction by the school nurse will help with successful eradication of the head lice infestation.

Environmental Issues:

  • Machine wash in hot water and regular detergent all clothing and bed lines that have been in contact with the infected person or dry on the hot cycle for at least 20 minutes.
  • Items not washable such as toys, pillows etc. should be stored in a tightly sealed plastic bag for two weeks.
  • Vacuum carpets, floors, upholstered furniture and the car.
  • Soak combs and brushes in hot water for 20 minutes or replace them.
  • Notify anyone with whom your child has been in close contact with so that they can monitor for evidence of head lice.

Resources:

National Association of School Nurses

www.nasn.org

American Academy of Pediatrics

http://pediatrcs.aappublications.org/content/110/3/638.full.pdf

Massachusetts Department of Public Health

http://www.state.ma.us/dph/

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need additional information or support.  Your partnership is appreciated as we navigate through this sometimes difficult and emotional issue.

 

The School Nurses

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