While head lice is an annoying problem, it is not a danger to your child's health, so there is no need to panic. When a case has been confirmed, it becomes very important for you to check your family for lice immediately. Please know that anyone and everyone can get lice. Getting lice has nothing to do with whether you are clean or dirty, rich or poor, it only has to do with the fact that you are human. If you find any live lice or eggs, it is absolutely necessary to treat each "infected" person, but more importantly, you must notify the school nurse so that we can effectively and confidentially monitor the situation. These outbreaks end much more quickly when there is proper communication between parents and faculty.
Here is how you can check for lice:
In a brightly lit room, look through the hair and scalp for eggs and live lice. Do this by slowly looking through 1 inch sections of dry hair row by row starting at the base of the neck and moving forward toward the forehead. Focus on the hair closest to the scalp. The nape of the neck is a common breeding area for lice. A wooden pencil will help you to part the hair each time. Look on both sides of the part paying close attention to the hair within an inch of the scalp. If you are not sure about what you find, place it in a plastic zip bag and take it to healthcare professional/school nurse.
You are looking for two things:
- Nits (eggs) are tiny greyish-brown "pussy willow bud" shaped ovals that will not come off of the hair very easily. Usually they are attached to the hair shaft very close to the scalp (if you blow on them and they don't move they are probably nits) If you have nits, you need to do a full treatment.
- Live Lice (bugs) are small brownish-grey insects. They move very fast, so chances are you won't see them. If you find lice, you need to do a full treatment.
Step 1: Treatment
Although this treatment may seem overwhelming and intimidating, each of these steps is necessary to end a cycle of lice. If you follow these steps your child will be lice-free. Here are the five steps to get rid of lice:
- Kill the live lice
- Get the eggs off of the head
- Clean your environment
- Inform your community
- Follow-up treatment
Please call your child's doctor to discuss treatment. There are a variety of products that can be used to kill the live lice. There are prescription products, over the counter products and natural products such as olive oil, Please discuss your lice treatment plan with your child's doctor. Some products need a 2nd follow up treatment. Please make sure you follow all directions for the specific treatment/product you choose. The most important part of the treatment after killing the live lice is to remove the eggs (nits). Hair needs to be combed out with a special metal very fine lice comb, & checked for nits for 21 days.
Step 2: Egg Removal
Egg removal is rather simple but you must have a really good very fine toothmetal nit comb. Wet and towel-dry the head. Have your child sit in front of you on a towel or thin fleece blanket (that you can wash in hot water and dry on hot heat with your daily load of their bedding). With a regular brush or comb, work some conditioner through the entire length of the hair to remove knots. Next, in a small bowl, make a paste of 1 part regular hair conditioner and 1 part baking soda. (the baking soda helps act as a grit to pull the eggs off of the hair). Dip the nit comb into the paste before each stroke and comb through each section of the hair. Make sure to scrape along the scalp each time. The nits (eggs) are usually very close to the scalp. After each stroke, wipe the paste onto a moist white paper towel to remove the nits and dead lice (they will be visible against the white background of the towel). Do this to the entire head, and repeat in all four directions: nape to forehead, forehead to nape, right to left, and left to right. Be sure to comb the entire head. This process is sometimes referred to as a "comb-out".
Step 3: Clean Your Environment
There are several different ways to treat your environment for lice. Any of these methods will kill the lice.
- Wash items your child has been in contact with the last 2 days (towels,
pillowcases, sheets, pajamas, clothes, coats, hats, and similar items) in hot
water (130F) in a clothes washer & dry items on high heat for 30 minutes
in the clothes dryer. Each morning, for 3 weeks, after the initial cleaning put
your child's sheets, pillow case, blankets, pajamas, towel in the dryer
on the hottest setting for 45 minutes. It is the hot heat of the dryer over 45
minutes that kills the eggs/nits. After school you can put their coat, hat, scarf
in the dryer on high heat for 45 minutes.
- Seal items in a plastic bag for 3 days that can not be washed & dried on hot
- Seal items in a plastic bag and place in the freezer for 72 hrs. that can not be
washed or dried on hot temperatures.
- Vacuum the floor, carpet and furniture. Using household insecticides to treat
the home, vehicles. carpet or furniture will unnecessarily expose you
household to harmful chemicals.
Here are some items that should be treated in your environment:
- any tools, combs, towels, or clothes that were used during the treatments and combings must be treated as instructed above
- bedding (sheets, pillow cases and blankets), pillows
- rugs, carpets
- hats, scarves, jackets
- book bags, gym bags
- car upholstery, car seats
- couches, sofas, easy chairs, throw pillows
- stuffed animals
- clothing and dress-up clothes
- all hair accessories
- hairbrushes and combs
Step 4: Inform Your Community
This is probably the most important step to getting rid of lice and preventing re-infestation. People often don't want to tell anyone in their community for fear of embarrassment. There is nothing to be embarrassed about at all! If you have lice, you probably got it from someone you know. They may not even know that they have lice. It is important to let everyone around you know about your case of lice. If you do not tell those around you that you have it, you are not giving those people a chance to take preventive measures or get rid of their lice while it is in the beginning stages of infestation (not to mention the fact that they will likely, therefore, give it back to you!). Put yourself in someone else's shoes... Would you want to know if your family has been exposed to lice? Absolutely.
Who to tell about your case of lice:
- Teachers of infected children
- The school nurse
- Anyone who has been in your home during your infestation
- Anyone whose home you have slept in during your infestation
- Playmates of infected children.
- Babysitters of infected children
Step 5: Follow up
For the next 21 days, it is important to remain vigilant about treatment. The life cycle of a louse is usually about 21 days at maximum. (A life cycle is different from a life span, which for a louse is around 30 days.) An adult louse lays an egg on Day 1. The egg hatches around Day 8. The nymph becomes an adult around Day 15. The adult starts to lay eggs around day 16. Therefore it is important to keep Nit combing your child for the 21 days in case you missed an egg when combing - otherwise you'll be fully re-infested before you know it.
Here is an easy way to keep track of your treatment. This may seem like too much work, but it is a surefire way to get lice out of your life. Get your calendar out!
Day 1: Check with your child's doctor for a course of treatment. After using your choice of product to treat the hair and kill the lice (See step 1) do a Nit-combing to remove any eggs (see step 2). Clean your environment using the steps above. After treatment and Nit-combing your child needs to be checked by the School Nurse to determine if they can return to school.
Days 2 to 21: Continue with Nit-combing, checking the hair and nit removal for for 3 weeks. Continue with washing the all your child's bed linens (sheets, pillow cases, blankets), towels, clothing, pajamas every day in high water and on on high heat for 30 minutes.
PLEASE, keep us informed if you find lice in your family
so we can effectively and confidentially monitor the situation.
Here are some facts and myths about lice:
- Lice cannot fly or jump. They crawl.
- Lice cannot live on pets.
- Lice are nocturnal.
- Without human blood, a louse will die within 48 hours.
- Some people have no symptoms even though they have lice. Others will begin to itch with the first bug.
- Adult lice can lay up to 8-10 eggs a day.
- Lice have a lifespan of around 30 days.
- 6-12 million cases are reported each year.
- Over 80% of school districts in America report at least one outbreak of head lice each year.