• Head Lice

    Listed below are several facts about head lice that will help you understand what these insects are and how an infection may be spread. The facts may help you understand how to manage this problem at home.

    • Head lice are tiny, wingless insects that live in human hair. They hatch from small eggs, called nits, which are attached to the base of individual hairs. The nits hatch in ten days and reach adulthood in about two weeks. As the louse feeds on its host, it injects saliva into the wound, resulting in local irritation and itching.
    • In their early stages, lice are very difficult to see and blend into the hair. Often, their eggs (or “nits”) are easier to see and appear as small white specks on individual hair shafts. These specks can be confused with dandruff but they are more difficult to remove because they are attached to the hair with a strong, glue-like substance.
    • Lice come from a family of parasites that must stay with their host to survive. If they are off the body for two to five days, they die.
    • Direct head-to-head contact is by far the most common means of transmission. They do not have wings or the leg structures necessary for jumping. Head lice do have six short legs that enable them to crawl very quickly.
    • There is a small chance that inanimate objects (rugs, toys, stuffed animals, school buses, backpacks) may be the source of head lice transference. However, remember that a louse that is not attached to a person will die after 2-5 days.
    • Lice can be found in the hair of persons of any age, race, sex, or socioeconomic class. Lice do not discriminate and prefer clean hair to dirty hair because it’s easier for the egg to be cemented to the hair shaft.
    • Lice can infest people with any length of hair. Cutting or shaving the hair is not necessary. Shampooing the hair with medicated shampoo is necessary, as well as removing nits by thoroughly combing with a louse comb or manually removing them with your fingers.
    • Nits can remain attached to the hair shaft for months because they are secured with a waterproof, cement-like substance. Treatment is warranted only when active lice or viable eggs are present. No one should be treated “just in case.”  This leads to resistance of head lice to chemicals in treatment.  Shampoos containing insecticides can be toxic if used improperly.
    • Guidelines for the Treatment of Head Lice:
    • If your child was examined and found to have live lice:
    • Read and follow the directions on the box very carefully.
    • Remove all clothing from the waist up.
    • Apply lice treatment according to the label instructions. If your child has very long hair, you may need to use a second bottle.
    • Comb hair thoroughly with a louse comb to remove all dead lice and eggs. Many flea combs made for cats and dogs are also effective. To make combing easier, it may be helpful to apply a crème rinse.
    • Have the child put on clean clothing after treatment.
    • Do not re-wash hair for 1-2 days 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 the dead and remaining lice out of the hair. The medication 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 doctor for different medications and follow their treatment instructions.
    • REPEAT TREATMENT WITH MEDICATED SHAMPOO EXACTLY 10 DAYS AFTER THE FIRST TREATMENT. This step is essential in preventing a reoccurrence of head lice.
    •  Check the heads of others living in the home or close contacts using lice combs every 2-3 days.
    • Accompany the child to school following treatment for a follow-up examination before sending him/her back to class.

    Care of the Home:

    • Launder bedding and clothes that have been used by the person with head lice during the past 2 days in hot water. Use the hot water cycle to wash clothes. Dry on a hot setting for at least 20 minutes. Dry cleaning clothing and bedding is also effective. Ironing items is helpful.
    • Even though there is no scientific evidence that head lice are transferred in any way other than direct head-to-head contact, it is still advised some household items need to be attended to. Toys, personal articles, bedding, other fabrics, and upholstered furniture that cannot be laundered with hot water and a dryer or dry-cleaned, can be kept in a plastic bag for 14 days.
    • Soak combs and brushes in disinfectant solution (1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water) for at least 10 minutes. Soaking in shampoo that kills lice or hot water for 5 minutes or soaking in a 2% Lysol solution for one hour also works.
    • Vacuum floors, carpets, mattresses, and furniture. Do not use fumigant sprays; they can be toxic if inhaled.
    • Have separate storage areas for each child’s clothing.
    • Encourage children not to share headgear, towels, and bedding.
    • Things to avoid:
    • Whole house clean-ups. Adult lice can’t live off a person’s head for more than a day or two.
    • Pesticide sprays. They are unnecessary and not worth even the small health risk.
    • Mayonnaise, margarine, petroleum jelly, olive oil, tea tree oil. There is no evidence that this works.
    • Cutting your child’s hair or shaving their head. It’s needlessly upsetting to the child.
    • Gasoline or kerosene. These folk remedies kill or maim a few children each year when the volatile fumes accidentally ignite. These substances should NEVER be applied to the hair.

      Managing Infectious Diseases in Child Care and Schools, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2005. Statewide School Health Services Website, CDC

    Bed Bug Prevention

    All families are encouraged to be diligent about checking for bed bugs. Please see the information below to learn how to search for bed bugs in your home, how to get rid of them if they are discovered, and more. Here are some additional resources for families:

    Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
    Preventing & Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Guide