School is underway for much of the country and the rest will be starting shortly. Parents of elementary aged children are all too familiar with the plague of head lice. One of the most common communicable diseases, second only to the cold virus, head lice can be a nuisance to treat. These parasitic insects live and feed off of the blood from the scalp and lay their eggs (nits) on the hair shaft. Primary transmission is through head to head contact because the bugs do not fly or jump. Sharing of personal effects such as clothes, hairbrushes or combs may contribute to contamination as well as some home furnishing items. The insects do not transmit disease, however itchy scalp and problems related to severe scratching are the only complications of head lice. With proper treatment and cautious prevention, outbreaks may be minimized.*
Before the children head back to school, they are returning from camp, many with some additional visitors. It is important to do diligent checks prior to sending the kids off to school where they can contaminate others. Delousing, even if lice wasn’t found on your child after camp is very important as lice is extremely contagious. Simple precautions such as drying clothes, pillows and sleeping bags in hot dryer for at least thirty minutes should happen as soon as the child returns from camp. Sectioning the hair with a tail comb under bright light or natural sunlight will help to decipher the presence of nits and lice. If they are discovered, follow the steps listed below. There is also nothing wrong with running a lice treatment after camp just to be on the safe side, because unfortunately camps are a breeding ground for lice and back to school means back to lice outbreaks. Due to the rapid spread of lice, it is not recommended to have a salon check for them.
Once head lice and their eggs have been detected, most school districts will not permit children back into school until they have received an initial treatment. Most popular over the counter products such as RID or nit combs are available in drug stores like CVS across the country and work well as long as the directions are followed. Stronger treatments are available in the unlikely event over the counter medications fail to treat the lice and require a prescription from a pediatrician. Cutting the hair does NOT rid the hair of head lice and is more of a preventative measure than a treatment.
Preventing the spread of lice is easy with a few basic procedures. Head lice are not a portrayal of cleanliness. They actually adhere easier to clean hair, therefore dirtier hair, or hair that has gel or spray in it makes it more difficult for the lice to cling to the hair shaft. Keeping boys hair short and long hair free of knots helps to see the appearance of the nits faster than longer or matted hair. Sharing of hats, headbands or other hair items should be frowned upon. Placing jackets that may have been exposed to head lice in a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes will kill the lice or the eggs. Special, organic shampoos and hair products with rosemary in it repel head lice such as Fairy Tales Hair Care for Children, which is available for purchase on the web.
If head lice have been discovered, it may be treated without reoccurrence as long as the directions of the treatment administered was followed and diligent prevention is practiced.
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*Bing Health. MayoClinic.com