We sit in dread of that awful letter being sent home with our child from
school. The work, the embarrassment, the whole thing is just one big
hassle! The mention of the word is enough to make our heads start
itching! What is it?..... Head Lice!
HOW DO YOU GET IT?
Head lice are transmitted through close personal contact with another
individual who is infested, through sharing of hats, combs, coats or co-mingling of these items at the homes of friends or at school or other public areas. Once present in a home, school or institutional environment, head lice usually spread rapidly. Most people are under the impression that only people who are unclean become infested with head lice. This is
NOT TRUE. They infest persons from all socioeconomic levels, without
regard for age, race, sex or standards of personal hygiene. Animals are
not a source of human lice.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
The earliest and most common symptom of a head lice infestation is
itching, particularly in the area behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. Itching is not limited to these areas by all means.
SO WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR?
Head lice have an elongated shape about (--) long and are grayish
white. They do not have wings and they do not fly but they do jump and their ability to move quickly makes them difficult to find. Nits (eggs) which are about this long (-) are teardrop shaped and vary in color from yellowish brown to white. Head lice attach the nit to hair shaft with a glue like substance which makes it impossible to just wash out. You will need to comb with fine tooth comb to remove them.
NOW THE BIGGIE, HOW DO I GET RID OF THEM?
Both prescription and over-the-counter remedies are effective in
treating head lice. It is important that pregnant women and infants be
treated under the direction of a physician because of concerns about
potentially adverse effects. Be careful not to use topical preparations
more frequently and over longer periods of time than directed. Overuse
of these preparations may cause dermatitis or result in absorption of
potentially toxic quantities of the drug.
Since agents that kill lice may not kill nits completely even when used
according to directions, the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) recommends that infested patients be treated twice. The
interval between treatments should approximate the incubation period for
nits (seven to 10 days) so the second application will kill any newly
hatched parasites. Waiting longer than 10 days to apply a second
treatment may allow some parasites to mature and lay more eggs.
All persons who have live in a household where head lice have been found should be treated.
TO TREAT AN INFESTED PERSON
Special fine tooth combs (nit combs) are readily available and can be
used to scrape nits and lice off the hair shaft. Combing out nits and
lice after proper treatment is not necessary to eliminate infestation,
but it may be used for cosmetic reasons or may be required by school
"nit-free" policies or by health authorities. Parents and guardians should check treated children for lice and nits daily for two or three weeks after treatment.
- Remove all clothing, but do NOT bathe before treatment.
- Wash hair with a shampoo that does not contain any conditioners.
- After shampooing, apply head lice medication according to label instructions, using a towel to protect the eyes. There are several forms of medication found at drugstores or you can get a prescription form from your doctor.
- It is suggested that a warm vinegar (50/50 cider vinegar and water) rinse can be used on every ones hair to loosen the eggs (nits). A fine tooth comb should then be used to remove the nits.
- Bathe and put on clean clothing after treatment. Make sure to use fresh towels as well.
- Treat everyone in the home, even if they have no signs of infestation.
- To prevent the spread of head lice, do not share combs, brushes, hats, coats, towels or other articles that come in contact with the head, neck and shoulders.
- Repeat full treatment in seven to 10 days.
- In between full treatments, continue to wash with regular shampoo and rinse with the vinegar rinse and comb with fine tooth comb every day until nits are gone.
DISINFECTING PROCEDURES FOR THE HOME
Objects that are able to harbor head lice and serve as vehicles of
transmission should be also treated appropriately.
Exposing lice and nits to temperatures above 125 degrees F for 10
minutes is lethal. Most personal articles of clothing and bedding can be
disinfected by machine washing in hot water or machine drying for at
least 20 minutes using the hot cycle. Be sure to allow time between
loads for water to reheat to the disinfecting temperature. Strip all beds, washing all bedding in this manner. Iron conventional mattresses with
a hot iron (DO NOT IRON WATER BED MATTRESSES). Be sure to iron any folds or crevices and especially around buttons and edge of the binding. Wash all dirty clothing.
Place non-washable personal articles of clothing or bedding in the dryer on
high heat for at least 20 minutes, dry clean or seal non-washable
fabrics in a plastic bag for a minimum of 10 days. Place combs and
brushes in a pan of water and heat on a stove to about 150 degrees F for
10 minutes. If heating may damage combs or brushes, soak them for one
hour in a phenol solution.
Fumigating rooms and using insecticide sprays on furniture and carpets
are not recommended to kill head lice; thorough vacuuming of houses and
rooms (all floors and rugs) inhabited by infested persons is sufficient. You may repeat ironing procedure on other furniture that won't be damaged by heat. Wash furniture covered with vinyl and similar materials with hot soapy water. Thoroughly vacuum or clean car seats, bus seats, and
individual infant and car seats according to manufacturer's directions.
Put all pillows, chair seats, throw rugs, cushions, stuffed animals
etc. in direct sun. Lice will not live long in the heat and light of the
sun. These items could also be placed in a sealed plastic bag for 14 days.
Hats, caps, scarves, hair bands, bows, clips, etc. may be hand washed in very hot water with detergent and ammonia added. Either hang in sunlight to dry or use dryer on very hot setting.
LETTING OTHERS KNOW
Very often parents find it "too embarrassing" to tell others that their child has head lice. In order to prevent re-infestation, it is imperative that parents of all children your child has contact with be informed that their children may have been exposed. This would include day care providers, schools, sports, scouting or other clubs, friends, neighbors, relatives; anywhere your child may have had close contact with others. Your child may have gotten lice from, or given lice to, someone at one of these places who may not yet be aware that they are infested. By not letting others know that your child has had head lice, you risk having your child re-infested by contact with this person.
*Some Information gathered from HEALTHBEAT - Illinois Department of Health. Used with permission.
- Be sure your children bathe and shampoo often.
- Caution your children not to share or use brushes, combs, hats, batting helmets, hair accessories, etc. Stress this point often!
- Wash your children's coats and caps regularly.
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