Misty Nemitz, APNP, sees patients at the Upland Hills Health Montfort clinic, and Highland clinic. You can learn more about Misty at https://www.uplandhillshealth.org/our-providers/misty-nemitz,-apnp/.
AAAHHHHHHHH…..It’s that time of year again that is one of every parents fear. LICE!!! It never fails with the start of school, the dreaded letter comes home with your child stating, “We have a confirmed case of lice in your child’s classroom/school.” Scratch…scratch…scratch!!!
So what is Lice?
Pediulosis humanas, otherwise known as head lice, is a parasite that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of humans.
How do I or my child get lice?
- Lice is worldwide and most common among preschool children attending child care, elementary school children, and household members or caregivers of those infested.
- Spread by direct contact with the hair of an infected individual.
- Less common, but still a risk, is by sharing or coming into contact with clothing or other personal items like hats, scarves, coats, combs, brushes, or towels.
How can I prevent myself or my child from getting lice?
- Pull long hair back during known outbreaks.
- Educate children during times when you know lice is present in schools when hugging, hold your head away from your peer, or encourage a hand shake or other gestures as to oppose hair from coming into contact with others.
- You can try products with tea tree oil or peppermint as a preventative measure. Some put it into their conditioner, or there are products already on market with them in it to help fight the spread of lice.
- Do not share brushes, combs, hats, coats, or scarves.
My child is scratching his/her head uncontrollably, what do I do?
You may check your child for lice at home. Lice are more commonly found exclusively on the scalp and seem to be more concentrated at the base of the skull and behind the ears. What to look for:
Nits (eggs) – laid by the adult female at the base of the hair shaft nearest the scalp. These are firmly attached to the hair and are very small and oval-shaped.
Nymph – immature louse that hatches from the nit. They look like adult lice but are much smaller and may be lighter in color.
Adult – size of a sesame seed and tan-gray in color. Can live for about 30 days on a person’s head but die within 1-2 days if it falls off a person. Only real active for about the first 12 hours after falling from the host.
If you suspect you or your child may have head lice, you can get over the counter lice treatments at the store to treat at home but you need to consult your doctor or health department for the recommendation of treatment based on the child’s age and weight.
If you have treated at home but are still seeing lice present or still having symptoms, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. There are resistant head lice that do not respond to the over the counter products and you may need a prescription.
Additional steps to take:
- Soak combs and brushes in boiling water for 10 minutes
- Items that may be contaminated and that cannot be laundered or dry cleaned should be sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks to kill any lice or nits that may be present.
- Vacuuming carpeting, rugs, and furniture and car seats as well as laundering any items is sufficient. Washing, soaking, or drying items at a temperature greater than 130 degree F can kill both head lice and nits.
- An alternative treatment to head lice is a thermal treatment that is completely chemical free and uses heat to kill off the lice and the nits. www.liceclinicsofamerica.com
- Head lice can NOT jump or fly. They move by crawling.
- Head lice like nice clean hair and scalp. (although you may feel dirty, you are not and that is not why you have lice)
- Dogs, cats, and other pets do not play a role in the spread of head lice.
- Lice can survive under water for several hours and the chlorine in pool water does not kill lice.
- Conditioner can be a barrier to the medicine attaching to the hair shaft and can reduce the effectiveness of the treatment.
- Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs as they can be toxic and are ineffective.