Head Lice

Head Lice do not originate in the schools and the school cannot prevent their spread. Because schools bring large numbers of children into close contact daily, the potential for the transmission of head lice exists. Please check your child weekly for the presence of lice. Please notify the school if you find and treat lice on your child. The school can be helpful in controlling the spread of head lice by providing educational assistance and notification of infestation.

Important Facts About Head Lice

  • Don’t be embarrassed if your student gets sent home with head lice. Between 8 and 12 million children get lice each year. A lice infestation can happen to anyone. Socioeconomic background or lack of cleanliness has nothing to do with determining who gets lice.
  • Head lice is not a serious medical condition.
  • Lice are insects about the size of a sesame seed. They are an easily treatable condition that can be eliminated once they are discovered.
  • Lice do not jump or fly. They crawl. Direct physical head to head contact is the usual method of transmission, or by contact with contaminated clothing, combs, brushes, hats, helmets, costumes, earphones, scrunchies or hair ties, goggles, pillows, and stuffed animals. Tell your child not to share combs, hats or other clothing.
  • Lice live for about one month. The adult females lay up to 10 eggs (nits) per day. The nits hatch in 7-10 days, and the newborn lice (nymphs) are almost invisible. In about a week, the nymphs have matured and started laying their own eggs.
  • If a student does have live lice on his head, the possibility of transmission to others has already been present for at least a month before any symptoms or detection was possible, The average case of head lice is 3-4 months old before it is detected.
  • Live lice depend on human blood to survive and cannot live away from the host more than 48 hours.
  • Eggs do not survive away from the scalp for more than 7 days.

What Do I Look For?

  • The eggs are yellowish white, tan or pearl-grey specks that attach to the hair shaft. They are most often found at the nape of the neck and behind the ears very CLOSE to the scalp. They do not wash off or blow away. Nits may often be confused with dandruff, hair casts, or dried gel, but these brush off. There may also be red bite marks on the scalp, and occasionally swollen head or neck glands.

If My Student Has Head Lice, What Do I Do?

  • Live lice are killed by a specific chemical shampoo that can be bought in the drugstore. You need only one application to kill the live lice, but manual removal of the eggs (nits) is also an important step. The National Pediculosis Association recommends the safest and most effective way to remove nits is by using a fine tooth comb. Use the products as directed. Ask the pharmacist for further clarification of package instructions.
  • It is very important to retreat the infected person in 7-10 days with the chemical shampoo. This will kill the remaining nits.
  • Pesticide shampoos are NOT to be used for prevention. Children under the age of two years and people with asthma, allergies, seizures, pregnant and breast feeding women should consult their physician before applying lice pesticides.

Machine wash all recently used (last 3 days) clothing, towels, coats, hats, and bedding in hot water and dry in a hot dryer for 20 minutes.

  • For other treatment methods contact your health care provider.
  • Items that cannot be washed (i.e. goggles, head phones) can be put into a sealed plastic bag for 10 days to destroy the nits.
  • Items such as stuffed animals can be dry-cleaned.
  • Thoroughly vacuum the environment including furniture. Insect sprays have not been proven useful.
  • Check all family for lice or nits. Only use pesticide shampoos if lice/nits are present. Do not use for prevention.

When can my student come back to school?

  • The student may return to school the day after the first shampoo. Please notify your school secretary if your child was treated for head lice. All information is kept confidential.

For more information