Unfortunately, each year all schools have head lice, especially within the elementary schools. Head lice are not a health hazard; however, they can be quite a problem for families to get rid of at home. It is considered the second most communicable disease in the school setting, with the first being the common cold. With all communicable diseases, there are precautions that are taken with the goal of not passing the disease to another individual. Head lice is contracted by long term head to head contact such as a contaminated brush, hat or even a pillow from another one’s home. It is extremely hard to contract the lice from another student in a classroom. They cannot fly or jump, their only means of movement is that they crawl.
Within each classroom, students are encouraged to use universal precautions to prevent the spread of any disease. The common cold’s precautions would be to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and proper hand washing. For head lice, the precautions are not to share brushes or hats and like objects, and to not invade another person’s private space, ensuring there is no body contact.
The Department of Health, in accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics, do not recommend head checks on students for head lice. If a student is found to have head lice, the parent is notified and recommended that they come and pick their child up to initiate treatment. The parent can choose not to pick their child up and the student is instructed to go back to class. However, the following day, the parent is instructed to bring their child to the nurses office for a recheck, ensuring treatment had taken place. With any disease, including head lice, children are not excluded from a class due to their situation.
We do not contact parents when there is head lice in a classroom, nor do we contact them when the common cold is in the classroom. It causes unnecessary panic and anxiety and places a stigma on the child(ren) who are affected by it! I understand the concerns we have as parents and have also experienced head lice in my home with my daughter. It is not easy to deal with and can cause stress!
To be proactive in fighting head lice, please…
- Remind your child not to share combs, hair barrettes, hats, scarves, helmets or coats. Head lice are wingless and do not have hind legs. They crawl from place to place. They DO NOT jump or fly.
- Check your child’s head if he/she complains of an itchy scalp. If uncertain, call the nurse and she will be happy to assist you and check your child’s head.
- If your child does have head lice:
- Contact your physician. Ask what products to use and follow the directions
- Remove all lice and nits(eggs) from the hair. Check the hair everyday for at least 14 days for any missed lice or nits.
- Repeat treatment according to directions.
- Wash clothing, pillows, bed sheets and stuffed animals in hot water (130 degrees) or place them in the dryer for at least 20 minutes.
- Vacuum all rugs, furniture, car seats, cars and mattresses.
HEAD LICE FACT SHEET
Unfortunately, each school year all schools have head lice, especially elementary schools. Head lice are not a health hazard; however, they can be quite a problem for families to get rid of at home. Cold weather months often bring an increase in cases due to hat, scarf and coat use.
Head lice are tiny wingless parasitic insects that live on the head and scalp of people, especially children. They are about the same size as a sesame seed. The nits or eggs are very tiny, half the size of a pinhead and very difficult to see. The nits vary in color from yellowish-brown to pearly white and are teardrop shaped. Nits attach to the hair with a waterproof, glue-like substance.
How do head lice spread?
Head lice are spread through DIRECT contact. This is mainly from head to head contact. Sharing combs, brushes, hats, helmets, scrunchies and hair barrettes can also transmit them. Since head lice are wingless and do not have hind legs they DO NOT fly, jump or hop but crawl very fast at about 12 inches a minute. To prevent the spread of lice please remind your children to never share these objects with others.
What is the incubation period?
Nits or eggs hatch about every 7-10 days. It takes about 9-12 days after hatching for a louse to become an adult, As long as a head louse or nit remains alive they can be transmitted.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptom is itching, which occurs when a louse bites the scalp. Scratch marks and red bite marks may be seen behind the ears or back of the neck. Children may experience sleeplessness due to itching because head lice are active at night.
Who gets head lice?
Anyone can have lice. They are equal opportunity insects.
Treatment of the student and the home
Have your child’s head checked if he/she complains of an itchy scalp. Treat hair according to the doctor’s direction. It is recommended to remove ALL nits from hair. Repeat treatment according to directions. Wash clothing, pillows, bed sheets, and stuffed animals in hot water (130 degrees) then place them in a dryer at the hottest setting for 20 minutes. Wash all combs and hairbrushes in hot water (130 degrees) for 20 minutes. Vacuum the entire house. This includes all rugs, furniture, car seats and mattresses.
Please contact the school nurse if you have any questions!