Healthy Children are Better Learners!
FIND OUT ABOUT HEAD LICE!
The head louse infests
10-12 million people each year in the
DON’T PANIC! IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE!
Many families with young children have at least one encounter with the head louse, Pediculus humanus capitis. Head lice can infest people of all ages, but children are prone to infestations because they play in close contact, share hats, headphones, combs and brushes, sleeping bags, stuffed animals, and clothing. In fact, the problem of head lice can be so rampant among preschool and school-aged children that often schools must work in conjunction with many families to control an infestation.
With September being National Head Lice Prevention Month, we are encouraging parents, teachers, and childcare professionals to be aware of this “lousy pest” and know how to manage it.
Head lice Facts
Lice eggs are called nits. Lice eggs typically hatch in 7-10 days. Nits are oval white-dark cylinders (1/16 inch long), usually glued to hairs of the head near the scalp. Nits are quite often found on hair around a person’s ears and back of the head.
You cannot "catch nits." They must be laid on the hair by live lice.
Nits hatch into nymphs, immature forms which look like small adults (see picture opposite column). Both nymphs and adults have piercing-sucking mouthparts to pierce the skin for a blood meal.
Within 24 hours of hatching, a nymph will take its first blood meal, and periodically thereafter as it grows into an adult (a period of 10-12 days). Adult head lice are approximately 1/8”in length (about the size of a sesame seed) and range in color from white to brown to dark gray.
They do not have wings or powerful jumping legs, so they move about by clinging to hairs with specially adapted claw-like legs. They only crawl and most transmission is directly from head to head.
Adult lice are swift-moving and tend to avoid light. Females may live up to 40 days, laying 6-7 nits per day (up to a total of 50-100 eggs during their lifetime!).
People previously unexposed to lice experience little irritation from their first bite. After additional bites, however, individuals may become sensitized and experience an allergic reaction; this includes reddening of the skin, itching, and overall inflammation. The reaction of individuals to louse
bites can vary considerably.
Head lice do not prefer dirty hair. They do prefer to live on the hair of the human head, and are unable to survive away from a human host for more than about 24 hours (thus, they cannot live within rugs, carpets, or school buses). It is important to note that lice are not found on animals or household pets, and are not transmitted from pets to humans.
Parents are the best defense!
Please check your child at least weekly for head lice.
Checking for Head Lice…
Periodic inspections for early detection of individual lice are far easier than dealing with advanced infestations.
THE BEST DEFENSE…parents checking weekly!
Look well and look often.
• Shampoo hair first. Do not use a product with
conditioners if you are going to use lice treatment.
• Begin with good lighting for your inspection. A
lamp or good natural light from a window works.
• Use a hand lens or magnifying glass to help detect
nits and lice.
• Remove tangles with a comb or hairbrush.
• Divide the hair in sections and fasten the hair that
is not being worked on.
• Look near the scalp for nits. Eggs more than
one half of one inch away from the scalp are
nearly always hatched and do not-by themselves –
indicate an active infestation or need for treatment.
• If, however, either adults or nits are found, this is a
call to action. Also check everyone in the
household, including adults.
Controlling Nits and Adult Lice…
There are four critical steps to controlling head lice
infestations: 1) the use of an effective head louse treatment; 2) lice removal from the head by combing; 3) removal of lice and nits from the household environment; 4) daily head checks and nit removal until infestation is gone, followed by
weekly head checks to detect re-infestation.
1.) Head lice shampoos contain insecticides and if they are not used properly they can be hazardous. Most over-the counter products contain either pyrethrin or permethrin (NIX and Rid). Lindane, available with a prescription, has been associated with a variety of adverse reactions suffered both
by people being treated and by people applying the treatment.
Pyrethrin and permethrin are safer and more effective than lindane. When using a head louse shampoo, minimize body exposure by confining the insecticide to the head hair. Wash the infested person's hair in a basin or sink so insecticide residues do not reach other parts of the body. The person applying the treatment should wear rubber gloves. Never apply an insecticide to anyone who has open cuts, scratches, or inflammations, and never use these materials on infants without consulting a doctor.
In all cases, follow label directions completely and carefully. With pyrethrin and permethrin shampoos, lice should die within 10 to 30 minutes after treatment. If you find live lice after treatment, you should seek assistance from a medical care provider. Do not retreat.
Never resort to dangerous practices such as applying other insecticides, or materials such as kerosene!
Olive oil and mayonnaise & other oils: There is no conclusive evidence that these are effective or necessarily safe. (DHSS)
2.) Special combs can be used after shampoo treatment to help with louse and nit removal. You must section the hair off and pull the comb through small sections of the hair to ensure that you are removing nits. Clean teeth of comb often as you pull thru the hair. Boil in hot water and scrub with a toothbrush after each use.
If the comb is ineffective, fingernails can also be used to pull each nit off the end of the hair shaft. A piece of tape can be placed with the sticky side up and used to secure nits for further disposal in the trash. Trash should be bagged and placed outside the home.
3.) What needs to be done in the home? Once an infestation is detected, all clothes should be washed in hot soapy water. Pillowcases, sheets, blankets and other bedding material should also be washed and placed in the clothes dryer on the "high heat" cycle to kill the lice and their eggs. Any
non-washable items should be dry cleaned or sealed in plastic bags and placed in the freezer at 5 degrees F or lower for 10 hours or more (a good option for headphones). Vacuuming the home will remove shed hair that has nits attached.
Use of insecticide sprays in environment is not encouraged.
4.) Continue weekly head checks of the whole family.
Remember, the best defense is parents
that check weekly!
Look well and look often.
Information taken from:
Pollack, Richard J. August 2000.
Scherer, C. W., P. G. Koehler and F. M.
Oi. August 1997. Head Lice.
The National Pediculosis Association,® Inc.: http://www.headlice.org/
Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services
1 “Pest Management is People Management” August 2007