Head Lice

Head lice
Lice are small, grayish-tan, wingless insects that live in the hair, feeding off the scalp. If your child comes home with head lice, don't panic. They are neither a health hazard or a sign of poor hygiene. Millions of children contract lice each year. Children play in close contact with one another and exchange things such as hats, clothing, brushes, combs, pillows and other personal items which can result in transmitting head lice from one child to another. They can be easily and effectively treated with cream rinses or shampoos to kill the lice and their eggs (nits).

To examine for head lice, carefully examine the hair and scalps of all family members for lice and their eggs. While the lice are small, grayish-tan, wingless insects that you can see on the scalp or one of the hair shafts, the lice eggs (nits) are small, white specks, which are found firmly attached to the hair shafts, usually close to the scalp. These are usually found at the nape of the neck and behind the ears.

If you find lice or nits, again don't panic. This is not an emergency situation. Several over-the-counter products are available; one is Nix Cream Rinse and can be purchased at your local pharmacy. Follow the directions on the package and do not repeat treatment more frequently than every 7-9 days. After using the cream rinse or shampoo and drying the hair thoroughly, the nits should be removed with a special nit comb. Due to the prevalence of resistance in many communities, it is important to try to remove all nits. These treatments are not 100% ovicidal, so nit removal is necessary to prevent another infestation. Some schools have a no nit policy, which prevents children from returning to school until their hair and scalp reveals no nits.

To prevent spreading lice from one person to another, make sure children do not share articles such as combs, brushes, towels, hats, scarves, pillows, etc., that have come in contact with their head, neck or shoulders. Use hot water to wash lice exposed clothing, towels and bed linens and dry at a high heat. Soak combs and brushes in pediculocide for 15 minutes, then rinse in boiled water and cool before using. Dry clean hats, clothing and stuffed toys that cannot be washed or seal them in a plastic bag for at least two weeks. Vacuum carpets, upholstery, pillows and mattresses which may have been exposed to the person with head lice. Dispose of vacuumed contents in an outdoor container and use a clean filter for future vacuuming; however, don’t engage in monumental cleaning efforts to rid your home of lice. Time and effort are better focused on your child’s head.

Be on the lookout for signs that indicate that other members of your family have been infected or that the child has become infected again. The most common symptom is severe itching on the back of the neck and head. If you notice your child scratching excessively in this area, check his/her head for nits and lice. Again, if nits or lice are found, don't panic. Follow the directions carefully on the over-the-counter products to remove lice, especially for the frequency of application or treatment. Resistant head lice strains can develop due to over-use of these products. That is why it is important to follow the directions. If after following the directions on the package lice are still alive, then an application of Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser saturating hair and scalp nightly and covering with a shower cap for two weeks may help. It is pesticide free and works well. Wash out the application in the morning and again comb nits out with a fine toothed comb.
Contact your health care provider for additional information.